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Protecting Self-Storage Tenant Data: Compliance, Updates and More

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By Ken Hendrickson

Firewalls, encryption, viruses, malware, patches, e-mail filters … Do you know what these things are? Do you need to know, and why should you care?

Many self-storage operators are confused about data security and how to keep their tenants’ information safe. Because of this, they miss important security steps. The following simple precautions will help you better care for customers’ private data and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Situations That Invite Risk

My friend recently received a call from a stranger who started asking about his father-in-law (we’ll call him Jim). Here’s a transcript of the interaction:

“Hi, is Jim there?”

“Sorry, you must have the wrong number.”

“I’m trying to get a hold of Jim about an order. You know Jim, right?”

“Uh, yes, he’s my father-in-law.”

“I just need to get his number or, actually, do you know his address?”

“Umm … I don’t know you. How do you know Jim?”

“I’m just trying to get in touch with him about a matter.”

“Well, sorry, I don’t know who you are.”

Has this ever happened to you? It can happen through a phone call or e-mail. You might even receive a physical letter that tries to convince to take certain steps and verify information. The hackers and criminals of the world are getting craftier by the day and are always changing up their angle.

One of the most basic ways a self-storage operator can protect his tenant data is to train himself to handle it with discretion. The likelihood of your computer being hacked and data stolen could be the least of your worries. You might have real data leaks happening every day. Here are some situations that leave you open to risk:

  • Leaving signed lease agreements out in the open
  • Talking about tenant accounts while other customers are in the office
  • Storing credit card information on paper
  • Failing to lock up lease agreements, credit card numbers and other information in a filing cabinet
  • Giving tenant data to unknown callers or e-mailers claiming to be the customer or his family member
  • Failing to protect recordings of incoming sales calls

Some of these items relate to compliance with payment card industry (PCI) standards. While PCI compliance has more to do with credit card data, it can apply to other tenant data as well. To be compliant, employees should be trained on the do’s and don’ts of handling customer information. Much of it is common sense. If you’re unclear about PCI compliance, talk to your management-software vendor or credit card processor to get up to speed.

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