Identity Theft – Still Growing!
It’s been a frightening statistic and now it’s worse. Identity theft grew by 16% in 2016 and 15.4 million Americans were the victims. More, identity theft doesn’t just impact individuals; business identity theft is another growing category. Businesses give thieves access to bank accounts and credit limits that are larger and higher than those of individuals. It’s up to every individual and business to protect their identity and the identity of those who do business with them.
Do Not Share
Whether you’re an individual or a business, private information should be kept private. Account information should be handled on a need-to-know basis. That means that you keep your passwords and codes private – and change them often. In a business, this means instructing your employees on safe practices if they are in a position that deals with your finances online or through paper. At home or at the office, be careful not to save your passwords on your computer or, worse, smartphone. Don’t write them down and keep them in your desk drawer or in a note book. You don’t want to give a potential thief access to your balances and your accounts with an easy push of the button.
Checks, Debit and Credit Cards – Control Them!
Again, this applies to both individuals and to businesses. Keep checks, debit and credit cards in a safe place – preferably under lock and key. It’s easy for an individual to throw a credit card they don’t use in a drawer. In a business, that debit or credit card that you hand to an employee to cover an expense if even more vulnerable. Don’t use a signature stamp in your office or home. If you must, it is especially important that it be kept in a very secure place. It’s not just a matter of a fraudulent check or purchase; you don’t want to open a path to personal information that could be used to steal your identity. Keeping your financial instruments safe is easily overlooked so create good habits and follow them.
Close the Connection
Online access to financial accounts is both a positive and a negative. It gives you an easy way to track your transactions. Get in the habit of looking at your accounts frequently. If there is a fraudulent transaction, the quicker you catch it the better. But, use your online access carefully. Always make sure that you are using a secure browser and don’t leave the accounts open on a computer unattended. Check accounts, pay bills or schedule transfers and exit from the program the minute you are finished. Most financial programs will often log you out after inactivity, but that’s going to take some time and it’s your responsibility not to leave information open.
Check your statements – it is a must. Reconcile your accounts in a timely manner. But, there’s more. If you are a business, you want to check for filings with the Secretary of State’s office at least once a year. One of ways a thief takes over a business identity is by changing the officers and/or address on your filings. Both businesses and individuals should monitor their credit profiles and activity with the major reporting companies. Individuals can get one free credit report each year. Since there are three major companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – that means you can check your credit report three times each year. Stay on top of your financial standing.
You’re Done with It. Now, What?
It can feel like a mountain of financial information and paperwork that’s weighting us down. There are old IRS filings, records, bank statements and more that are no longer needed. Stay away from the dumpster! At home, you may want to use a personal shredder. However, that’s time consuming and it’s tempting to forgo shredding everything. In businesses, it’s even worse. Do you use the time of a valuable, trusted employee or do you hand important shredding over to the mailroom? Both businesses and individuals can benefit from professional, on-site shredding. A big truck with a commercial shredder comes to you and shreds your sensitive documents right before your eyes. For an individual, you can call for service when you need it. For businesses, it makes sense to schedule regular shredding. You get the benefit of having locked bins so when an employee is done with sensitive information, he or she can just drop it in. The document is safe while it’s waiting to be destroyed. On site shredding is available in Phoenix, AZ and most cities. It’s a good answer to keeping your information – and your identity safe whether you’re an individual or a business!