7 Ways to Protect Your Company from Online Identity Theft

Filed under: IT Support

Life in the digital age means navigating a whole host of new dangers. Most of us know that identity theft is a growing concern, but if you’re a business owner, you might not realize how such an event could also affect your business.

picture of a hacker on a computer

Account takeover is the most common type of identity theft, and it’s pretty much what it sounds like. The thief hacks your online banking information (your username and password), and then transfers funds to himself. For a business with a large bank balance, this could result in inability to pay your employees, cover rent and utilities, make insurance premium payments, and more. It is often impossible to recover funds lost from your bank account.

Alternately, the thief could steal your business credit or debit card number and make purchases online. Often, you won’t be held responsible for these purchases if you report them quickly, but that’s the tricky part for business owners who make multiple large purchases per month; would you notice problems with your account right away?  Even if you do, fraud involving your debit card could mean that money is missing from your account and it could take days or even weeks for your bank to credit it back to you.  Can you live without those funds?

Identity takeover is less common, but could carry more dire consequences. A scammer can steal your Social Security number, apply for credit cards and loans, and of course never pay the bills. Often this type of identity theft goes undiscovered until you apply for some sort of credit and find out that your credit score has tanked and you have numerous fraudulent accounts.  Imagine the damage that could do to you, as a business owner!

Along with the financial damages, you could lose significant amounts of time dealing with the fallout from an identity theft event. Since you’re busy enough running your business, and need to keep your high credit rating, it’s obviously better to prevent identity theft than try to deal with it after the fact.

Avoid sharing your Social Security number. Many businesses, such as your doctor’s office, will ask for this information. Leave that spot on the form blank. If their database is ever hacked, criminals will have too much information on you.  Medical offices are a huge target for cyber criminals.

Only use your home or office computer for online banking. Don’t log into your bank account from public WiFi connections, and of course keep your anti-virus programs up to date.

Consider a credit freeze. Most people don’t know this, but you can “freeze” your credit, so that it becomes very difficult to open a new account using your Social Security number and name. This might be a good option if you know you won’t be needing any new credit cards in the near future (you can also remove the freeze in the future, when needed).

Watch out for suspicious phone calls. The IRS will not call you about problems with your tax returns (they will send a letter). Microsoft does not make cold calls about updating your computers.

Don’t share your information. Be careful whom you trust with information like your bank account login or Social Security number.

Be careful about clicking on links. Don’t click on links in emails or texts, even if they do appear to be from your bank or another legitimate business. Open a new tab in your browser and log into the site you know and trust.  Hackers are great at sending emails that look like they are coming from your bank, PayPal, and other financial institutions.

Install a trustworthy firewall on your computers. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for any business to avoid the Internet these days, but there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe online.

Contact Davik Consulting at 888-RING-MY-TECH for more information on securing your business network.