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Identity theft is one of the most rapidly growing crimes in the world.
What’s more, identity thieves target not only individuals these days, but also businesses, both large and small. When identity thieves target a business, they use information they find on the company’s website and social media accounts. Then they use that information to obtain credit in the company’s name, often causing grave harm. Sometimes, the business owner won’t even know about the theft until after serious financial loss has occurred.
What can you do to protect your business from identity theft?
Identity theft is a global problem. In mid-2016, the Washington Post reported on an international ring of identity thieves that spanned multiple countries. It involved numerous fraudulent shell companies around the world and victimized hundreds if not thousands of people.
It may surprise you to know that Russian hackers are considered to be among the world’s most savvy identity thieves. And US citizens are their prime targets. For what it’s worth, Switzerland is the world’s safest country when it comes to identity theft.
But while we can’t all move our businesses to Switzerland, there are some steps you can take to protect your company from identity theft:
1. Develop a Plan
While you surely have a business plan in place, do you also have a plan for protecting your company’s credit? If not, now is the time to develop a plan to protect your company’s sensitive information, such as government-issued identification numbers and confidential financial data. Plan, too, for the steps you’ll take in case of an attack by identity thieves.
2. Keep Company Data Safe from Theft
Keep sensitive company information in a safe and secure location, and shred confidential documents when their usefulness has passed. Consider using a prepaid company credit card instead of a traditional one as a way of limiting your company’s exposure to theft and fraud. You can set a reasonable limit on the card as well as restrict the card’s use to specific merchants. And never share restricted company information with someone unless you were the one to have initiated contact. That’s a good rule to keep in mind for personal as well as company information.
3. Avoid Putting Sensitive Information Online
Remember when you’re building or upgrading your website or interacting with customers on social media that not only will the communications you place there be available to customers, thieves will likely be scrutinizing those sites, too. Therefore, just as you would never publish confidential personal information online, also never put sensitive company information online, either. And when you cannot avoid storing sensitive information electronically, make sure to encrypt it.
4. Safeguard Your Personal Data from Theft
While you’re wise to focus on your business, you should also take steps to ensure the safety of your personal credit as well. Did you know that one of the latest ruses identity thieves have dreamed up is that of attacking your tax information? In the United States alone, millions of taxpayers have had their tax refunds stolen, amounting to billions of dollars in losses.
Be aware of possible tax-related identity theft if you or your clients get an IRS notice or letter that indicates any of the following:
- IRS details show wages received from an unknown employer.
- More than one tax return for was filed for a single individual.
- You have a balance due, refund offset, or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you didn’t file a tax return.
It takes diligence and ingenuity to outsmart identity thieves, but you can give yourself the assurance that these simple measures will provide.
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