Guest post by Anne Wallace (learn more about Anne at the end of this post)
As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you may not think of yourself as a potential identity theft victim. Small business owners typically are engaged in a lot of transactions that puts their information at risk, and their personal and business finances are often intertwined. And you’re an especially attractive target if you have access to substantial lines of credit.
Take the case of Helen, the owner of a health care services company, who was victimized by a former employee. The employee used Helen’s personal information to obtain multiple accounts in her name and racked up nearly $12,000 in expenses. Fortunately, Helen’s bank detected the bogus accounts and referred her to ITAC, the Identity Theft Assistance Center, before more damage was done.
“I feel foolish in retrospect for having my personal information in an unlocked file for anybody to see,” said Helen.
Most small business owners are busy and fraudulent activities can go unnoticed. The worst case is the process of recovery is so difficult that the business folds.
You can avoid the pain of identity theft by taking some simple steps to protect yourself and your business:
- Secure all important information: Make sure all of your important information is safe with lock and key, password protected, and install spy-ware, firewalls, and virus protection on all computers. Change the passwords and locks on a regular basis. Also, limit the access to the number of people who can see your information for accountability purposes.
- If you don’t need it, don’t save it: People tend to keep things around longer than they need them, posing a greater security risk. If you do not need something for the future, dispose of it, but do it wisely. Disposing of information properly, such as shredding, will cut down on your risk of theft greatly.
- Monitor yourself: Don’t depend on your bank. Check your finances regularly for any suspicious activity and contact your financial institution immediately with any questions.
Identity theft is something that can happen to anyone at anytime with devastating results. The thing to remember is that you are not alone in the fight and should take the necessary precautions before it’s too late. You may also want to consider a service that monitors your personal information and alerts you to suspicious activity.
For more information, visit the Identity Theft Assistance website at www.identitytheftassistance.org.
About the Author
Anne Wallace is the President of ITAC, the Identity Theft Assistance Center, a nonprofit coalition of financial services companies united in our commitment to protect our customers from identity theft.