Identity theft is a well-known threat and not just for individuals – businesses, both big and small, are also at risk. In fact, the Aberdeen Group has found that it costs the global business community roughly US$221 billion annually. For criminals, targeting unsuspecting businesses for identity theft is an attractive undertaking because its highly lucrative and, by comparison, the risks are minimal.
This article outlines the risks for your business and provides guidance on how to protect it from falling prey to identify thieves.
What is business identity theft?
Business owners too often don’t understand the risks of identity theft, and as a result, many are inadequately protected. Business identity theft is not merely an information security breach, nor the loss or theft of consumer information. More accurately, it involves a person or other entity impersonating the actual business itself. Identity thieves make illicit gains by defrauding creditors, suppliers, business owners, consumers, and even the government. Remember – no business is immune from the threat. It is not uncommon for criminals to target businesses of any size and structure, and in any industry so don’t neglect getting the protection you need.
Steps to Protect your Business
The need to be proactive in protecting your business from identity theft should be clear. Once a thief gets hold of your sensitive information, they will often rack up massive charges very quickly. This can put your customers’ financial records at risk, damage your credit history, and cause a multitude of other problems. Of course, it’s best to never let it get to this point! Here are five tips to help protect your business from ever finding itself in this situation:
1. Minimise stored information
The more data you store, the easier it is for criminals to access your data and engage in identity theft. Therefore, you should only store information if it is absolutely necessary. If you do need to store certain types of information, it can be effective to store corresponding information in different places. For example, keep your username stored in one place and the password in another place in a way that makes sense to you but not to others. This will make it more difficult for criminals to use your information.
2. Have a data destruction policy
Eliminate information that is no longer needed. For example, delete data from files that haven’t been used for a long time and aren’t needed. Also, if you replace computer equipment, it is advised that you destroy the old equipment so thieves can’t recover the information stored on the equipment.
3. Protect paper documents
Keep all sensitive information in a safe place, such as in a locked drawer. Only trusted employees should have access to such documents and deal with them responsibly. Once confidential documents are no longer needed, they should be shredded. This will protect the business from any thieves diving through recycling bins!
4. Have password protection for everything
For every software platform or website a business uses, it should require a password to log in. It is best to make complicated passwords and to use different passwords for different log ins, otherwise a criminal could access multiple accounts with ease.
5. Implement data encryption
Technologies are available to prevent business identity theft. By using a data encryption system, any information leaving your business can be kept secure. This technology uses an algorithm to convert normal text into indecipherable mumbo-jumbo (in layman’s terms) so it cannot be understood by unwanted parties.
Get Protected Today!
Business identity theft is a serious problem which is becoming more and more common due to the huge potential profits and the relatively small risk. Therefore, as a business owner, don’t wait to protect your business – get protected today!
About the author
With over 20 years’ legal and business experience, Katherine Hawes is the founder and principle solicitor of Aquarius Lawyers. She has written a number of articles for Dynamic Business, including How to protect your IP when you have an online business.