Identity theft can happen to anyone, at any time. It is a common crime in today’s hyper-technology world. Hackers are coming up with new ways to steal your information at a rapid pace. You could be the average Joe on the street who accidentally gives your credit card information to a cloned PayPal, or someone steals your driver license’s number and applies for credit cards under your name.
Identity theft has become much more prevalent in the world than many would guess. Approximately 10 MILLION Americans become a target of some form of identity theft. If that number isn’t enough to make you uneasy, than I don’t know what is. But not only does identity theft happen to individuals, it can happen to businesses that are not secure online. They can steal your business’s money, goods, information or any other assets.
Some common forms of identity theft are:
Financial Fraud: This is the most numerous fraud. Financial fraud includes stealing your identity to purchase or sell expensive items, steal your tax refunds, withhold portions of checks cashed, and simply steal your money to use in various ways. There are about 20 different financial fraud types that result in stealing your money.
Criminal Activities: This is where someone steals your identity to perform criminal activities under your name.
Cybercrimes: Many sophisticated phishing scams happen through the internet. Sometimes the perpetrator is right under your nose, such as an employee or care giver. These hackers can access employee records, steal company mail (bank statements, tax documents, new checks), and gain authorized access to credit reports.
That’s why keeping a secure and protected office is extremely important. Hiring an IT company to make sure your files are safe is one way to help your business stays protected.
Other types of identity theft:
Organized Crime Drug Trafficking Alien Smuggling Money Laundering
The main types of theft you should look out for though is financial and cybercrimes. Cybercrimes are numerous and many are designed to look identical to a regularly-used website or email from a known website.
For example: You go to a website you use to pay a monthly statement, instead of taking you to the official website, a hacker can redirect you to a malicious site that looks identical to the official one. Without knowing you make your payment on a website that is designed solely to steal your money and credit card number.
So, now that you have a better understanding of the different ways your identity can be stolen, what measures can you use to prevent fraud?
For starters, make sure you recognize a real website from a fraudulent one. Look to the URL link. If it has an “https” at the beginning that usually means it is a safe site. If it has just “http” at the beginning, that is deemed as an unprotected website.
For a business, many criminals prey on small businesses who do not have secure servers or protected files. But even protected businesses can be affected by cybercrime. As mentioned previously, insider computer crime can happen. Disgruntled employees who think they may be laid-off, or are not financially stable may commit identity theft to protect themselves.
Phishing scams, adware, spyware and other viruses are a form of malware that can be used to access private records.
For a business, downloading an anti-virus software is the first step. Keeping your systems up-to-date and regularly checking its status can alert you to any updates your anti-virus software has made that you need to implement.
Never give your individual or business information to companies you don’t know are legitimate. Many official websites will also have a lock icon at the bottom right corner of the page letting you know the site is secure. Do not make payments to any website that do not have the “https” URL and a lock icon on the page.
Make sure you shred all paper invoices, bills, receipts, statements or other mail that contains private information.
Never open emails from domains or usernames you do not recognize. Many mail applications will alert you if the mail looks like spam. Never reply to emails that are alerting you to verify your account information because your account is being suspended, closed, or charged.
Discussing these issues with your employees. By educating everyone in your business about the different forms of fraud and how to avoid them, this can prevent many types of identity theft.
Also check your bank accounts for any activity that seems suspicious. Use a credit card for payments online instead of a debit card, because most credit card company offer a zero liability policy, meaning you will not be charged for fraudulent spending. Regularly check your credit score too- if it drops without reason that means there can be a hacker using a credit card in you or your business’ name.