Posted by Christina K. Bell
More than ever I am seeing my smaller nonprofit clients go from a paper to a paperless environment. This switch may include employees scanning in documents such as donor information, copies of donor checks, and company bank statements directly from their copier to their computer system. This is great for efficiency and productivity but did you know by doing this you’ve turned that innocent and sometimes hated copier into a potential wealth of information for identity thieves? Now, before you blame the accountant for encouraging your organization to go paperless, this does not mean your organization should go back to paper and pencil, it just means your organization should be aware of the potential risks and develop controls to minimize them.
Most images scanned into any machine are stored on the machine’s hard drive. When the hard drive is full it is simply overwritten with newer files. As a result, information regarding your organization and your donors could be at risk. This could include information such as bank account numbers, social security numbers and personal data. The risk develops when you dispose of your copier. Within hours, hard drives can be removed and using free or inexpensive software, scanned documents can be retrieved.
So how do you protect yourself, your donors and those you serve? First, determine if your copier has a hard drive; you may need to contact the manufacturer or leasing company. If it doesn’t, there’s nothing to worry about. If it does, many copier companies, realizing the potential risk, offer products to eliminate or minimize the risk. For example, many copier companies sell privacy and security software to eliminate images being retained on the copier’s hard drive.
As with anything, knowledge is the first step to protecting yourself and your organization. Ask plenty of questions when deciding to purchase or dispose of a copier and develop a way to ensure that the information being stored on your copier is safe. Soon your only copier concern will be finding Side Tray B Door 3 to clear the paper jam. Where is that door anyway?