Identity Theft: A Problem for Both Small Businesses and Consumers

identity theft

When you think of identity theft victims, you usually call to mind images of someone who wasn’t careful enough when using their credit card online or a person who didn’t take steps to hide their PIN well enough at the local ATM.

What many people don’t realize is that identity theft is something that affects small businesses every bit as much as private citizens.

The United States Small Business Administration estimates that identity theft affects 10 million people every year. It isn’t just a problem that makes things difficult for the consumer, it also dramatically increases the cost of business for merchants themselves. When it comes to taking a proactive approach to fighting identity theft as a small business owner, there are a number of important factors to consider.

Protecting Company Documents

One of the most important steps that a small business can take to protect both its customers and itself from identity theft involves protecting company documents. Keep in mind that as technology continues to advance, more and more businesses are moving towards the cloud for storage solutions in a digital realm. When storing important documents in the cloud, make sure that you’re using a secured provider that offers encryption for all data stored within. Encryption involves encoding important data in such a way that it is unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have the necessary key. Even if the documents were intercepted online by individuals with malicious intentions, it would be unreadable without that key.

Related: 6 Reasons to Improve Identity Security With SSO

Another important digital safeguard to take involves making sure that you are only sending important information using encrypted websites. When you type the URL of a website into your web browser of choice, look for a small padlock icon to the immediate left of the address. If the padlock icon is present, it means that security measure such as SSL Certificate is in place to protect the information that you’re about to send. Including padlock icon, you can also see business name before url if Comodo EV SSL used to secure website. If no icon is present, do not send important information like credit card numbers, tax ID numbers and similar pieces of data over that channel.

Educate Your Employees About Phishing Scams

Phishing scams involve the receipt of an email that may initially appear genuine, but in reality, it is a cunning attempt to get you to hand over sensitive information to hackers. A phishing scam that attempts to steal your business banking information may resemble an email from your financial institution of choice, for example. If you receive an email from your bank asking you to log in and check your account, never use the link in the email. Instead, open a separate browser window, go to your bank’s website and log in through that official channel. If the message was legitimate, the reason that you were asked to log in will still be valid.

More so than using these best practices against phishing scams yourself, you should also take steps to educate employees. Just because something is obviously a scam to you doesn’t mean it is obvious to the entry-level employee who just started with the company.

Be Careful of the Type of Information You Collect

One important way to protect your small business from identity theft involves being very judicious about the type of information that you’re collecting in the first place. As a general rule of thumb, don’t store any sensitive information (like passwords, account numbers and more) if it doesn’t expressly need to be maintained on business computers, servers or networks.