September 25, 2017

What Every Small Business Should Know About Identity Theft

Identity theft is on the rise. In fact, 2016 was a record-breaking year for identity crime in America. EMV technology and the adoption of chip-based credit cards have done wonders for safeguarding in-person transactions. But the steady increase in our digital dealings keeps us vulnerable to identity fraud.

Your health and wellness business risks falling victim to identity theft in one of two main ways:

  • A new “client” may use stolen information to set up an account, receive free medical care, or pay for wellness and fitness products online
  • A thief may steal your business identity to apply for loans, or purchase expensive equipment

There were close to 29 million small businesses across the US at last count. That means no shortage of potential victims when fraudsters go in search of a target. With fraud losses totalling some $16 billion last year, it’s critical that you take steps to protect your company.

Medical Identity Theft

According to the Federal Trade Commission, medical identity theft is a growing problem. Criminals are using stolen identity or health insurance numbers to see doctors, get prescription drugs, file claims, and benefit from other wellness care. The FTC’s advice for protecting your practice and patients from medical identity theft includes:

  • reviewing your data security practices regularly,
  • keeping your clients’ protected health information private, and verifying the identity of anyone who requests it, and
  • training your personnel to deal with, and dispose of, patient information appropriately

You should also encourage your clients to keep themselves safe by watching for unauthorized healthcare bills or activity.

Protect Your Company’s Financial Information

Compared with personal identity theft, stealing company profiles is relatively easy. Many small businesses have minimal to no borrowing history. That gives lenders little to go on when approving purchases on credit, or evaluating loan applications.

It’s not uncommon for thieves to obtain credit with another company on the strength of a stolen EIN (Employer Identification Number) alone. Consider these tips for keeping your business safe:

  • thoroughly check all account statements regularly
  • manage employee access to sensitive files
  • keep computer firewalls and security programs up-to-date
  • monitor how staff are using their personal mobility devices for work
  • verify that potential lenders and vendors are taking appropriate steps to protect your confidential information before you provide it

Protecting your business from identity theft starts with understanding the importance of keeping identifying elements private. Details you would normally divulge to acquire a business loan, for example, should be kept locked away from prying eyes. That means guarding your company’s financial data, EIN, tax and bank account numbers like you would your personal details. It also means working with a reliable payment processor like Beacon to ensure the latest encryption methodologies are in place.

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