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Steps to take to help protect your business from identity theft

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We all know technology has changed the world and can be incredibly helpful, but unfortunately there can also be some downsides to using it. These days, more hackers find ways to break into systems to steal information, including identities. In fact, around 15 million U.S. residents alone become the victim of identity fraud each year, while the financial losses add up to billions of dollars annually.

These thefts cause businesses and their owners to lose not only money, time and energy, but also customer trust. As such, it’s very important to protect your venture vigilantly. If you don’t want all your hard work to be undone in a few minutes by a cybercriminal, read on for some key steps to take to help protect your business, and in turn yourself, from identity theft.

Protect your systems

One of the most important things you can do is protect your systems from prying eyes. There are a few factors involved in this. For example, use proper passwords on all your devices (including computers, tablets, cell phones and Wi-Fi router) so hackers can’t easily gain access to your information that way.

Codes should be a minimum of eight characters long, and made up of a mixture of numbers, upper-case and lower-case letters, and symbols. Change your passwords every so often, too, and mix them up, rather than using the same code across every device or website you login to.

Next, avoid storing data on your gadgets where possible, as this will help limit your risk. Also, install good-quality, comprehensive security software on your computers. Choose a product that provides protection against a variety of threats, like viruses, ransomware, spyware, and malware. Make use of a firewall on your devices too, as this adds another layer of protection and particularly helps to stop hackers from breaking in via an internet connection.

In addition, don’t forget to run regular updates. By ensuring you’re always running the latest versions of security software, firewalls, and even apps, browsers, operating systems and the like, you will help to keep gaps in security plugged.

As well, don’t forget the sensitive information which is around in physical form. Always shred sensitive paperwork, and keep your mailbox locked so criminals can’t steal your mail as a way of finding out vital details.

Use safer payment methods

Be very careful when paying for goods and services. Don’t let people take your credit or debit card details manually without you being there to see it is handled securely, and only ever shop on secure online checkouts on reputable sites. Don’t give out your firm’s bank account details or related information freely either.

Similarly, when it comes to how you accept payments from customers in your business, make wise choices. Select a payment processing firm that’s well-know and trusted, and takes security seriously. Make sure you upgrade to the newer EMV terminals for credit and debit card transactions, so customers can pay using their EMV “smart cards” (those with microchips embedded in them). This way, both parties will be more protected and fraud  –  and identity theft in turn  –  will be less likely.

Know common scams to look out for

Another way to protect your organization is to know the common scams hackers use and look out for them. For example, note that cybercriminals often send out fake emails, pretending to be from real companies such as telecommunications firms, banks, and other important contacts. Unsuspecting people then open these communiques, thinking they’re from legitimate sources.

The problem is, hackers embed malicious codes in the links within the correspondence which, when clicked on, download software to operate surreptitiously in the background observing keystrokes. Another method is sending emails which ask people to follow links to login to their accounts to supposedly update information or complete some other action. Of course, the links take readers to fake sites designed to look like real ones. From here, hackers obtain login details and other sensitive data.

To avoid this, don’t open emails or attachments from people you don’t know and, when you get messages from businesses you recognize, check the email address they have been sent from, and read the wording and check graphics carefully.

Fake correspondence designed to look like real messages will typically come from a strange email address and have typos, grammatically poor language, logos that aren’t quite right, and other errors. Similarly, you might get calls from people purporting to be from businesses. If they ask you to provide sensitive information, be on high alert. Never give out details without first carefully verifying credentials. Most corporations will never ask for this kind of information over the phone anyhow.

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