How to Protect Your Business from Identity Theft

October 4, 2019
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In 2018, there were 1.4 million fraud reports processed by the Federal Trade Commission. These losses totaled $1.48 billion dollars according to Consumer Affairs. We have all heard about people receiving fraudulent calls about debts they supposedly owe or even pop-up ads on the internet that say your computer is infected. In this advanced technological age, taking steps to protect your business and your customer’s information is more crucial than ever before. In this article you will find helpful ideas you can employ in your business practices to keep not only your information safe, but protect the information of your customers and clients as well.

Go Digital with your Statements

Sensitive information such as credit card statements, bank statements, medical bills, or any other sort of personal information being sent through the mail poses a huge risk when it comes to identity theft. Mail theft is, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence. “Paperless Billing” can be utilized in order to help maintain security. Instead of receiving your monthly statements to your mailbox, you can opt to receive your bills directly to your email. Typically, the process only takes a few minutes to set up. Offering paperless billing to your customers may also be a smart move. Not only will it show that you run a modern and “eco-friendly” business, but it also offers a more secure and convenient option to your customers.

Store and Dispose of any Sensitive Documents as Safely as Possible

If you must keep paper documents that contain sensitive information, make sure you have procedures in place on how to properly dispose of these documents. Simply tossing them into a regular trash bin leaves you and your customer vulnerable to identity theft. Redacting and destroying sensitive information is the easiest way to protect yourself. Investing in a quality cross-cut paper shredder is a smart move to make. Here is a quick list of the best paper shredders of 2019 to help you decide on which shredder would be best for your business. If you would rather not bother with having to shred paper documents yourself, another option is having someone else do it for you. There are multiple companies who specialize in disposing of sensitive information for businesses and their customers. You simply dispose of sensitive information into locked bins, and every month, the company will haul the sensitive materials away and dispose of them at their own facility. This saves you and your employees’ time and offers even more protection for you and your business.

Another way to insure your private information stays secure is by storing all sensitive documents for you and your customers inside of a locked filing cabinet. If additional security is needed, maybe even consider purchasing a small safe to store information or other important items in.

Employ Safe and Smart Digital Practices

As previously mentioned, thanks to modern technology we now must be even more cautious about the ongoing cyber threat to our personal information. Fortunately, there are multiple ways we can protect ourselves. Firewalls are “a part of a computer system or network which is designed to block unauthorized access while permitting outward communication,” According to the Oxford Dictionary. Many smaller businesses utilize firewalls in order to protect their systems and information. Having a secure Wi-Fi connection (password required) is another very simple way to protect information from hackers and other potential threats. Storing your data at an off-site location or even utilizing cloud storage is another common practice a lot of small to medium-sized businesses are employing. This keeps documents safe and secure, and you know that you always have copies of documents if something were to happen to your physical office or personal computer system. Limiting what your employees can access or download onto your computers are another measure to practice. Downloading items off of the internet always poses a risk when it comes to virus’ infecting your systems. Virus and malware protection services can also be used regularly to keep your systems clean and free of harmful “bugs.” Be proactive about securing your data! Taking the proper measures now can help you steer clear of any major issues to come!

Monitor Your Businesses’ Credit Reports

When starting a businesses, it may be a safer choice to operate under an EIN, or an Employer Identification Number. This makes tracking credit reports simpler as well as keeps your personal social security number out of the mix. It also helps the IRS easily identify your business when reporting your businesses’ taxes.

Use Strong Passwords and Limit Access

Every single employee at your company does not need access to important digital or even physical documents and information. Designating levels of security clearance for employees helps everyone understand the types of information they can access. Every employee should also have their own separate login and password for their own user profile on a computer system. Shared computers are far less secure. Passwords for computers or even encrypted files should be unique and not easily figured out. Do not use the same password for every platform. Here are some helpful tips for creating a strong password.

Identity theft is scary and stressful to think about. No one wants someone using their personal information for nefarious purposes. However, taking proper precautions to protect yourself is a very crucial way to combat any threat of identity theft. Taking time to implement these new practices and procedures will not only keep your information safe, but it will also show your customers that you are serious about protecting them and the information they are entrusting to you.

If you do become a victim of identity theft, here are some helpful tips on what your next steps are: