28 Jul 2018 21:18 IST

How safe are your documents?

Despite living in a digital world, physical documents are still mandatory in several situations

In the olden days, a certain piece of advice used to be offered to anyone travelling abroad: a person could afford to get lost but had to make sure not to lose their passport. This is mainly because one’s identity in a foreign country is largely dependent on the passport. If this crucial travel document is lost or misplaced, the holder would find it very difficult to get anything done, including returning to his or her own country.

This is true for almost all our important documents that serve as proof of address or identity, and the like. Ironically, the digital drive is yet to take root in various organisations, or even among individuals, when it comes to submitting documents, their copies and the attested copies.

Although every organisation talks about “going green”, urging their customers to opt for electronic communication, they revert to physical paper when anything is required to be submitted to them.

Growing pile of papers

As a person progresses in a career, the list of such documents seems to only increase. Starting from the birth certificate, to the school and college-related documents, and later the various job-related ones, the marriage certificate, and so on. They then come a full circle when they have children — saving their birth certificates, school transcripts, and so on. It’s never-ending.

Although everyone is aware of the importance of such documents, there is a tendency to store them in a not-so-safe manner. This is especially the case when any of the documents have been taken out for some use and then cast aside casually, often due to some other urgent task.

The importance of keeping documents safe is usually driven home for many people when they lose them in a natural calamity or accident. The 2015 flooding of Chennai saw several such stories.

Ensuring safety

There are three things a person can do to keep such documents safe:

~ Scan all the documents, both the front and the back. Save these files in separate folders — organised so that you can retrieve them easily in the future — and in multiple places. Save them on your computer or laptop and also in any cloud-based drive online. Remember to protect the folders with a password to maintain their confidentiality. The DigiLocker app provided by the government is an option worth exploring.

~ Take good quality photocopies of all the documents and keep them at home for fast and easy access. In many instances, a photocopy is required and, if the original is not needed for verification, another copy of the good quality photocopy should help.

~ Invest in a good quality, waterproof pouch or bag and use it to store all the original documents. If you have a bank locker, these documents would be safer there. Otherwise, a secure place under lock and key at home should suffice.

~ Last and definitely not the least, remember to take out these documents once a year to check whether they are alright. This will help you to not only remember the documents that you have safely stored but also take action in case of any damage due to insects, dampness, and the like.

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