Labor Day weekend marks the end of the summer sales season. With hard-to-pass up offers being promoted, shoppers will be hitting their local dealerships to take advantage of the deals. Annual holiday weekends like Labor Day bring in an increase in sales for dealerships, which also means an increase in the amount of customer information being processed.
From credit rating and driver’s license information to details about customers’ financials and insurance, dealerships will handle large amounts of physical and digital information. While this may come as a surprise to some, identity theft tied to auto loans or leases has increased 89% in the last year. With the immense amount of sensitive information in the hands of dealerships, it is likely this number will continue to increase. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prepare for the handling of sensitive data and customer information ahead of, during, and after Labor Day weekend.
Ahead of Labor Day weekend
The first step to prepare for the handling of sensitive information is to make sure your dealership has an information security policy that is known and adhered to by all employees. While this may seem obvious, there is a gap in the industry when it comes to information security best practices as 31% of auto dealers say they do not have a policy for storing and disposing of confidential paper documents and another 41% do not have a policy for disposing of confidential information on end-of-life electronics.
With the increase of sales that annual holiday weekends bring, dealerships may be at their most vulnerable to data breaches during this time. Legally, it is up to the dealership to safeguard any and all customer information from unauthorized access, fraud, or misuse. In order to do this, you must plan ahead.
During Labor Day weekend
When you are in the midst of Labor Day sales, it is easy for information security to take a back seat in terms of priorities. Unfortunately, this disorganization can lead to information security slip-ups like leaving customer reports unattended on desks or up on the computer screen visible to anyone. To help keep your dealership organized, here are some things you can do when you’re in the middle of the holiday sales action:
● Do routine walkthroughs around your dealership: During the busyness of Labor Day weekend, it may be difficult for your employees to stay organized and properly store or dispose of customer information as they work with one customer to the next. Keep your eye out for any sensitive information that is left sitting on a desk or on a computer screen and make sure to properly store/dispose of it. While this may seem like a simple task, if not properly enforced, it can become a major security risk.
● Lock up sensitive information: When your sales team is finished working with a customer, remind them that it’s best to store and usually lock up in a file cabinet any and all personal information. Do not leave material such as lease forms, photocopies of credit reports and driver’s licenses, paperwork with addresses hanging around for others to stumble upon. Not only will this help keep information safe, but it will also reassure your customers that protecting their data is a priority. Dealerships should consider implementing a Clean Desk Policy, which requires all employees to keep their desk’s clear and information filed and locked away in secure areas or drawers when they are no longer present.
● Identify the high-risk areas for data exposure: There are plenty of areas outside of a desk where vulnerable information may be stored or processed including printers and recycling bins. Once you have identified the areas where sensitive information may be at risk of falling into the wrong hands, spot check throughout the weekend to ensure that physical information security is remaining a priority. Making a checklist of areas to look out for before the weekend will decrease the risk of information falling into the wrong hands.
After Labor Day weekend
Following Labor Day weekend, there will come a time when you will need to dispose of the customer information you collected. It is critical to implement a safe document destruction process, as simply mishandling one sheet of paper can lead to a privacy breach. Not only could this cost your dealership a significant amount of revenue, you also run the risk of having legal action taken against your dealership.
One of the best ways to protect your customers and your dealership is by understanding the legal requirements you have in protecting customer data. This is especially important for the auto industry as only 10% of auto dealers admit they are aware of the legal requirements for handling confidential information. One regulation in particular that dealerships should be aware of is the Disposal Rule, which requires dealerships to dispose of consumer reports in a secure format that ensures customer privacy. This includes properly shredding of confidential physical information and safely deleting confidential digital information.
At the end of the day, if you mishandle customer information it will negatively affect your business in a multitude of ways, including losing trust from your customers. Avoid becoming a target for information theft this Labor Day weekend by implementing a proper policy beforehand, monitoring and protecting physical and digital information during and properly disposing of information following the weekend.
Ann Nickolas is senior vice president at Stericycle, the provider of Shred-it information security solutions, where she oversees new business development and account management. Nickolas helps businesses secure their confidential information with products, services, policies and training that help protect them from the risks, fines, penalties and loss of revenue that come with an information breach. For more information, visit www.shredit.com.