SEATTLE – Stephen Hershman was serving on the USS Kentucky submarine in 2003 when his identity was stolen, compromising his top-secret security clearance.
Forced out of his communications job, he spent several months straightening out his credit rating. His identity had been stolen by someone who took his utility bills from his trash, and used them to open a post office box.
That’s when Hershman thought of starting a service that provides customers access to an industrial-strength shredder that destroys documents on the spot. Hershman started a do-it-yourself shredding company, The Shred Stop.
“I was so fed up with it that I decided I had to find a better way of doing it,” Hershman said. “But I couldn’t find a way that I liked. I didn’t like the idea of dropping off my paper at a place with drop-off services like UPS. I really wanted to see it destroyed.”
Hershman was a systems-engineering major at the U.S. Naval Academy, so he was confident he could design a shredder’s hardware, but he needed someone to handle the software behind the machine. He proposed his idea to friend Keith Rettig, who studied software design at Old Dominion University in Virginia. Rettig was in.
In 2007, they launched The Shred Stop, which now has 17 kiosks in stores across the Pacific Northwest.
An estimated 8.6 million households in the United States had at least one victim of identity theft in 2010, according to results from the National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Among those victimized, the crime stats indicate, less than 10 percent found their information had been stolen and used to open a new account, which is the type of identity theft that shredding personal documents can prevent. But those victims experienced major financial loss – nearly $13,200 on average.