QUESTION: Much has been written recently about identity theft and hacking of individual email accounts. As a small business owner should I be concerned about my business being compromised by these cyber criminals?
ANSWERS: You should absolutely be concerned and take many of the same measures individuals do to protect themselves. In fact, under the Uniform Commercial Code , businesses have shorter reporting timelines, less protections, and higher liability for fraud than with consumer banking accounts.
Some of the things you can do to protect your bank account include two party approval for outgoing wire transfers or if you do not use wire transfers ask your bank to block transfers altogether. Monitor your business credit card activity and reconcile your business bank account frequently and consider online banking that allows you to see transactions on a daily basis.
Change your online banking password frequently and never log in using a public access or Wi-Fi hotspot. Also, if you receive an email ostensibly from the IRS know that it’s a scam. Do not respond and don’t click on any links or attachments.
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Other protections include keeping your checkbook, deposit slips and other sensitive records in a safe and secure place. Protect your Employer Identification Number as you would your own Social Security number and be sure to shred any old documents that reference your EIN number.
In addition to Dunn & Bradstreet the three national credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion provide business credit services. They also offer fee-based services to monitor your business credit file and alert you to changes.
You should keep your business and personal finances separate. If you think you are a victim of identity theft or do not plan to apply for credit you can place a “security freeze” on your personal credit. This can help prevent thieves from trying to open new credit accounts in your business name.
Instruct your employees that business computers are to be used only for business. Properly trained employees become your first line of defense. Utilize fraud prevention services for online order processing . www.Google.com/alerts allows you to set and receive email alerts that match terms you specify such as your business name.
Do not rely on free software to protect your business. Install and use regularly updated anti-virus, anti-spyware internet security software. Also install and utilize a firewall that monitors and controls external connections to your computer.
If your business uses a wireless network be sure that it is encrypted so others cannot gain access to your network. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is more true today than ever before.
Gray Poehler is a volunteer with the Richmond Chapter of SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business. To ask a question or request free and confidential business counseling, go to Richmond.score.org/mentors. Learn more about SCORE’s workshops on the website or by calling (804) 350-3569.