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What To Expect When You Hire A Shredding Company To Destroy PHI

Posted on 30 June 2015 by Total Secure Shredding

PHI, or “Protected Health Information”, is the personal health information used to identify an individual. Often, this data is demographic in nature, and reveals facts that relate to the individual’s mental or physical health, as well as their provision of health care, how they pay for that health care, and a variety of general identifiers including the person’s

  • Full name

  • Date of Birth

  • Address of Residence

  • Phone Numbers

  • Social Security Number

As sensitive information, all PHI must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act standards (HIPAA). According to the HIPAA, all covered entities will be required to dispose of PHI properly and securely, with proper proof of shredding. A reliable method that most organizations use to do this is to hire a shredding company that will destroy all of the PHI off site in a manner consistent with the security and privacy rules and regulations of HIPAA. Following are just some of the things that you should expect when hiring a shredding company to destroy PHI on your behalf.Computer at desk

1. All Sensitive Records Will Be Reliably Destroyed

Hiring a skilled and qualified service to destroy your discarded PHI is a great solution for many companies searching to eliminate a significant portion of substantial risk, while lowering internal costs. It’s no surprise that using a qualified PHI destruction service has become the most popular method of disposing of PHI.

Paying for a qualified service to conduct the destruction on your behalf allows your office to obtain a valid record of compliance, or proof of shredding. Even if you’re sure that your employees always shred every document that they should, it’s important to have proof that this happens regularly. Your chosen company must be capable of destroying the following types of media:

  • Smart Phones, CDs, Thumb Drives

  • Computers – simply pressing delete does not erase data from a computer system

  • Stored records – records that have been electronically converted or exist beyond their retention period

  • Paper Records – any paper documents, messages, notes, memos and forms

2. The Destroyed PHI Will Be Completely Indecipherable

To comply with the rules of HIPAA, all destroyed PHI must be completely indecipherable, or “essentially unreadable”. What’s more, even if the destroyed PHI cannot be reconstituted, this does not mean that it can simply be deposited into any garbage can, recycling bin or dumpster used for general waste that might be accessible to unauthorized persons or the public.

When you hire a company to dispose of your PHI for you, you enter into an agreement or contract that ensures the PHI will be safeguarded carefully throughout the disposal process. This ensures that your PHI will be carefully retrieved, burned, shredded or pulped and removed according to the requirements of the law.

3. You Will Receive A Certificate of Destruction

A proof of shredding receipt gives you and your company the HIPAA compliance documentation essential to the audit trail. Not only will you have a reliable destruction program in place, but you will also have the documentation required to back yourself up – and for a lower cost than would be required to destroy data yourself.

Most businesses today know that HIPAA compliance is crucial, and to demonstrate your compliance, your paper trail must establish the following:

  • You have been destroying sensitive materials with a registered destruction company on a regular basis

  • Proper care was put into choosing your specialist and qualified destruction vendor

  • Your employees have been trained to understand their own destruction responsibilities

Safeguarding Your Company

The privacy rule determined by the HIPAA requires that all covered entities apply the appropriate technical, physical, and administrative safeguards needed to protect PHI in any form. This means that no covered entity may dispose of PHI without due caution and specialist care. Though the security and privacy rules do not require that companies use a specific method of disposal, covered entities must determine steps that are reasonable in safeguarding PHI and implement policies to carry out those steps.

How do you feel about using a professional company to destroy PHI on your behalf? Do you think that accessing specialist shredders may be a safer, cheaper, and all-around more secure option of dealing with sensitive data?

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Use Extreme Caution with HCL

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Dissolving Hard Drives in Hydrocloric Acid Part 1

Posted on 30 August 2012 by Total Secure Shredding

Howdy Folks,

A few months ago I got an email from Christian that went into great detail about how to dissolve hard drives in Hydrochloric Acid.

I for one think shredding hard drives and then recycling the materials is a much better way to go, but in any event, if you’re interested messing around with acid, here’s how you go about doing it.

Disclaimer: I don’t recommend doing this and I hope that by posting this, and by showing the potential dander, nobody will give it a try. As you’ll read, you need to Personal Protective Gear and you will be producing extremely hazardous Hydrogen gas. Not to mention dealing with a highly corrosive chemical.

Side Note: FYI… Shredding hard drives doesn’t required Personal Protective Gear, doesn’t great Hydrogen Gas, and doesn’t involve the handling of corrosive chemicals.

But on with the show…


I am writing with a few comments and observations on dissolving hard drives in HCL or hydrochloric acid.

First of all, the stuff is relatively easy to find.  Any Lowes, Home Depot, garden/pool/spa/home improvement store should carry it in quarts, half or whole gallons.  You might also want to ask for muriatic acid, which is the same thing.  The best thing to buy would naturally be the most concentrated, which they usually sell at between 30 and 32% or so.

Granted, you want to be damned careful with the stuff [my emphasis added], as I can say from experience that it burns like hell if the concentrated acid gets on your skin, especially if you have a cut…  Anyway, you don’t need a space suit to handle it.

Though I have never destroyed a hard drive with it, here is what I would do, based on my knowledge of and experience with this corrosive substance.

FYI, you can also find similar info on line, though perhaps not as detailed.  If you destroy a hard drive in acid, I’d recommend putting the drive in something either heavy duty plastic, or glass if you have a jar that big.  The reaction will cause a certain amount of heat as the acid reacts with the metals and creates hydrogen gas, and you don’t want your vessel melting on you, for obvious reasons.

You will also want to perform this exercise in either an outdoor or very open or well ventilated indoor environment.

The first thing to do is put on protective clothing, namely long sleeves, rubber/plastic gloves and a respirator, if you actually have one.  If not, take a big breath like you would if diving underwater, look away from the container and open the acid bottle.  If possible, hold the breath while pouring the acid into the container.  If not, breathe with the mouth away from the container of acid, as the fumes smell god awful and will irritate in small amounts.

I would recommend putting the drive in the container BEFORE the acid to reduce the possibility of spillage.  Anyway, once you’ve got your drive in a jar and are pouring the acid, it would be best to not get your face or body over the container in case the reaction is more violent than expected, which acid reactions can be at times.  Fill the jar enough to cover the drive with a bit to spare, and let sit for a few hours.  I’d say leave overnight, but one should probably watch this stuff and not let it sit.

I would NOT recommend closing the jar or container, as the reaction will produce highly flammable and potentially explosive hydrogen gas, the same thing that blew up the Hindenburg.

You can either wait for the acid to eat into the drive casing and begin corroding the platters, or you could do what I will do when the time comes.  Open the drive by removing the screws and/or rivets in the case itself, leaving the platters exposed and ready to be eaten by hungry acid.

Anyway, that’s my two cents or so on destroying hard drives with acid.  Have fun, stay safe and be well.

Very Exciting Indeed!

Again, I highly don’t recommend doing this unless you have extensive experience doing this sort of thing. After all, I don’t know who Christian really is so he may be an experienced chemist or a complete psychopath.

In Part II of this experiment, Christian fills us in on how to dispose of what remains after the hard drive is dissolved.

Talk to you then… Your friend,

Head Shredding Guy

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Paper Shredding Embarrassment

Posted on 18 March 2011 by Total Secure Shredding

Are you embarrassed about shredding your documents?

Hey Folks,

There seems to be a new mental disorder (maybe mental disorder is a bit too harsh) that I’d like to to call…

“Paper Shredding Embarrassment Syndrome”

Here’s how it goes:

Customers coming into my paper shredding facility often say,

I only have a few things to shred. Actually, they’re not even really that important. To be honest, they probably don’t really even need to be shredded.

So let me get this straight, you looked online for a shredding company, more than likely gave us a phone call to make sure you got all the details correct, loaded up all your stuff, and then drove down to our facility to get it shredded…

But it’s not that important? Really?

I was talking to a customer about his the other day and I think she pin pointed the exact problem…

They might be a little embarrassed.

It’s as if they will be judged “Paranoid” by me and the rest of the world since they’re going through this process of shredding all their documents.

Here’s the deal, you’re not “Paranoid” because there are tons of people out there that are getting ripped of by Identity Theft.

Did you know that ID Theft was the NUMBER ONE complaint to the Federal Trade Commission in 2010? 19% of all complaints had to do with Identity Theft!

So there’s no need to feel embarrassed that you are being overly protective – you’re not!

We’ve had thousands of customers just like you come down to our facility to either drop-off documents or to watch their documents get shredded while they wait…

You’re in great company with thousands of other who take Identity Theft seriously.

Anyway, I hope that helps if you were perhaps on the fence deciding whether or not to bring your documents down.

Until next time…

Keep Totally Secure!

Your friend,

Mike Krauss
Head Shredding Guy
Total Secure Shredding, Inc.

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Secure Drop-Off Shredding – Is it Really Secure?

Posted on 29 September 2010 by Total Secure Shredding

It seems the latest and greatest fad in “Secure” Paper Shredding is to drop your documents off at postal packaging place.

I see this all over the web where Shredding Companies are advertising hundreds of drop-off shredding locations all over the city where you can leave your sensitive documents for shredding.

At one time I thought that this might be a good idea…

… Until I started to call around.

A few years ago I thought it would be a great idea to have a drop-off location in East San Diego County.

My goal was to find a small locally own postal packaging store or a small stationary store.

After a few minutes of searching on the Internet I found what I thought was the perfect candidate.

I called and upon speaking to a very nice lady I explained that I was a San Diego Shredding company looking to partner up with a local East County store, such as theirs, where customers could come and drop off documents to be shredded at a later time by one of our secure shredding trucks.

I went on to say that their postal store would merely act as temporary custodian of the documents, charge the customers a set price, and then we would come by and shred the document for a certain price – of course, for less than what the customer was charged.

She seemed to think that this could be a good idea and I thought, “Wonderful, this might actually be a great idea to better service customers and make some extra sales!”

I then asked this question, “Do you have a secure location in your facility to store these documents in-between our shredding service visits?”

She responded very matter-of-fact, “I guess we could keep them out back next to the dumpster.”

“Humm” I said, “Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.”

I quickly said “Thank you” and hung up the phone.

This was a very quick and easy test that most folks don’t really get the security aspects of sensitive document disposal.

It’s not that they’re bad people or people out to commit fraud.

Not at all…

They just haven’t put any time and effort into thinking about these sorts of things.

And that is really the heart of the matter.

Does the place you’re taking your documents to really understand and appreciate the sensitivity of your documents?

I don’t want to imply that all these postal places are not taking care of your sensitive documents.

But I can pretty much guarantee they are not putting all the necessary precautions in place to prevent a security breach of your documents.

How do I know?

Well, Total Secure Shredding has customers who own these postal places and we show up on occasion to service the containers they have.

I myself have actually performed the service on occasion.

The only thing I can confirm about security is that once we take control, my policies and procedures kick into effect and things are secure once we take custody of the documents.

But before that point, I think there’s much left to be desired.

With regard to the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID), it’s not really a big issue since there’s no claim that these postal stores are NAID Certified.

If you look closely, no one is claiming that these are secure facilities. You’re basically on your own in determining if you are leaving your documents at a trustworthy enough location.

I for one, refuse to list any of these locations (some who are in fact my customers) on my website.

Because, no matter what fine print I put on the website as a disclaimer, I’m implicitly endorsing and vouching for the security of your documents at that facility.

And quite frankly, there’s no way in hell I can do that unless they meet the strict guidelines I’ve but in place at my own facility – No matter what increase in revenue I could potentially see.

The liability to the Total Secure Shredding brand is just too great.

One “small” data breach could bring untold damages – Either in terms of real dollars or bad P.R.

So, all in all, please be careful where you drop-off your sensitive documents.

In the name of convenience, you may be sacrificing a lot in terms of security.

Until next time…

Keep Totally Secure,


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Paper Shredding Services San Diego

Posted on 17 June 2010 by Total Secure Shredding

Paper Shredding Service Secrets Revealed

This closely guarded Industry Secret could leave you wide open to Identity Theft.

Discover what the competition won’t tell you…

Hey Folks,

Mike here…

I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now…

It’s something that came up over lunch with a person in my mastermind group.

She was getting to know more about my business and asked me what certifications and licenses I needed in order to get started in the Shredding Industry.

I paused for a moment and responded, “Well… Actually… There’s no certificate or government license that’s required to start a shredding company… Outside of a regular business that is.”

My friend looked at me confused for a second and then replied, “So someone could be handling all these sensitive documents and there’s absolutely no guarantee that they are making sure everything is getting shredded properly?”

I responded, “Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the case.”

And that’s why it’s critical that consumers perform their due diligence when selecting a shredding company.

However, one of  the biggest problems is that many customers ignore whether or not a paper shredding service is qualified to securely destroy their documents but rather choose a paper shredding service only on the basis of price.

This has resulted in a multitude of new shredding companies that have popped up to undercut the competition only to make a quick buck. The reason they can undercut many of their competitors is that they are often times taking shortcuts on insurance, employee background checks, uniforms, or some other industry specific requirement.

Some of these shortcuts may seem superficial, but from my standpoint, if an organization, built around securing your documents, doesn’t look professional, how can you, I, or anyone else be sure sufficient security  precautions are  being taken when it comes to handling your documents.

The Bottom Line Is:

There is absolutely no governmental oversight of the document destruction industry.

And when it comes to the old saying, “Buyer Beware”, be especially aware when it comes to choosing a document destruction vendor.

So what is the average consumer to do?

That’s why I put together a “Paper Shredding Buyers Guide that anyone can freely download

In this guide I open the door a little bit further into what the paper shredding industry is all about and to clear away some of the mystery that is hanging around out there. I even go as far as putting in some real money saving insider tips that only those deep inside the industry even know about. It walks you through exactly what to be looking for and what exactly to ask when you’re out there evaluating a potential shredding vendor.

As far as I can tell, this is a first of its kind.

Once you read through this guide, my hope is that you’ll be able to make a quality decision about choosing a paper shredding service.

So please, I posted the link below. Take a look into what this shredding thing is all about (I even put in two work sheets that you can fill out to help you with the decision process).

Click this link to check out the FREE guide: Paper Shredding Buyers Guide

Once you’ve taken a look and if you still have a few questions, you can always give us a call so we can get any other little items you have answered as well.

After all, that’s what we’re about, helping you with your information destruction needs… We are a service company.

So until next time.

Keep totally secure,


P.S. Once you’ve taken a look at the “Paper Shredding Buyers’ Guide” I put together, feel free to leave me a note in the comments section of this blog entry… I sure would like to hear what you think.

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