Your identity is one of the few things you will ever truly own 100% so if your identity is taken from you then its understandable that you might feel more than a little devastated. It’s not just your own identity that could be up for grabs by opportunistic vagabonds, professional identity thievery is just as rife in the business world and the results can be catastrophic. Indeed, whilst identity theft has long been a common consumer crime (it’s estimated that as many as 4 million people every year fall victim to it in the UK and as much as 7% of the population have experienced it at some point in their lives), thieves have learned how to target businesses for larger profits.
What is business identity theft
It’s essentially personal identity theft but on a grander scale, with criminals using nefarious means to ‘hack into’ a businesses ID and use it for their own gains by emptying the businesses bank accounts into their own, by using it to make expensive purchases and to access safeguarded information. Obviously smaller businesses are more at risk but even huge, multi-national corporations can fall prey to ID theft.
How does it happen?
It occurs in much the same was as personal ID theft. A criminal gains access to your information and uses that information to make the world think that they are operating your business. They can gain this information either though email ‘phishing’ schemes, by stealing laptops, tablets or phones, by using paper documents such as bank statements or even through hacking into social network profiles, particularly Facebook and LinkedIn.
How to prevent identity theft for your business
Unfortunately it continues to happen as many businesses are simply not taking adequate precautions. Here we’ll be examining 5 steps that every business (whether you’re ‘Microsoft or ‘Mike’s Pizza’) should be following to stave off potential identity theft.
Take out business identity protection insurance – This should cover your business against supplier or customer ID fraud, account take-overs and any other illicit action committed through your businesses identity theft. This specialised insurance will let you monitor your credit record and check for any discrepancies that could be a result of your businesses identity being used fraudulently by a criminal party.
Shred ALL sensitive material before you bin it – This might sound a little ‘paranoid’ in theory, but in practice criminals are genuinely not above rooting through your businesses garbage, looking for documentation they can use to aid them in stealing your company’s identity. Make sure you buy the best and most thorough shredder that you can afford as there are even some ID thieves who have been known to piece shredded documents together in order to use them!
Install firewalls on all of your IT systems – Though it might seem a little inconvenient to do so, setting up strong firewalls is not half as complicated as it once was. There are numerous tutorials online that will aid you and if you’re at a loss, chances are there will be at least one person in your employ who will be able to understand it. Especially if you have an IT department. On a smaller scale, make sure that all of the password you use are passwords you don’t use anywhere else and that there is a decent amount of anti-virus and anti-spyware software installed on all of your computers. Also make sure your staff are well aware of how seriously you take the threat of ID theft and that as a result they shouldn’t be visiting any websites that could contain harmful ‘malware’.
Keep track of EVERYTHING you send – Even a small scale business will no doubt need to send documents by mail on occasion and you should keep track of every single item you send just in case it somehow finds its way into the wrong hands. Royal Mail operate a track and trace service that they do charge a premium for but it’s always recommended for sheer peace of mind more than anything else.
Be vigilant – Never leave your IT systems unattended and always be on your guard. If you see someone at a terminal they shouldn’t be at don’t let it slide and let your employees know that they will be penalised personally if anything slips through the cracks as a result of their ineptitude. This might seem harsh but when it comes to the security of your business and your brand identity, there are no measures too strong to take. The repercussions of a business ID theft could last years and you might never recover so be prepared!