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There are a number of measures individuals can take to protect themselves from identity theft and credit card fraud. But it’s equally important to protect your small business from identity theft.
According to the Better Business Bureau, fraud costs individuals less than $5000 in each instance. But business credit cards and charge cards often have higher available credit limits, meaning once a criminal gets hold of your credit card number, he can do even more damage.
The BBB estimates that credit card fraud may costs small business owners $50K or more.
It’s important not to share your social security number except in cases where it is entirely necessary. It’s always okay to ask why an organization or business wants your social security number. In some cases, if they are merely using it as a means of identification, they can suggest (or provide) an alternate number.
You should treat your EIN (Employer Identification Number) with the same care. Here are some ways you can protect your EIN:
- Only provide this number to people you trust who have a legitimate business need for the number (such as payments or tax forms)
- Do not leave your EIN out on your desk where employees or guests to your office can see it
- Shred any documents containing your EIN
- Do not use your EIN as a password or form of identification
Protect Your Business Credit Cards from Fraud
Use the same card to protect your business credit cards from theft as you do with your personal credit cards. This includes:
- Shredding any documents, including statements, that contain your credit card number
- Making sure any website where you use your credit card is secure
- Using a “virtual credit card number” if your credit card provider offers it, when you shop online
- Not giving your credit card number, and three-digit security code, to anyone you may not trust
- Not letting your credit card out of your sight at restaurants or gas stations (employees can write down the numbers and use the card for online shopping)
We talk about five ways you can have your credit card stolen in this article.
But business owners have even more to worry about, especially when they permit multiple card holders on one account.
It’s important to check your statements each month, or log online and check account activity even more frequently than that — especially when you have issued a new card to a recently hired employee or when a number of your staff is traveling for business.
Most of the best credit cards for business offer zero dollar liability on unauthorized purchases if you report them immediately. So if one of your employees lets his credit card number get into the hands of a thief, you won’t be liable for the charges.
Your business credit card may also let you set pre-set spending limits for individual cardholders, to prevent internal theft or overspending by employees when they’re on the road.
More Ways to Protect Your Business from Identity Theft
Here are a few other ways to protect your small business from credit card theft:
Watch for employees or visitors who may look over your shoulder to steal sensitive information such as account passwords and pin numbers. Position your computer in such a way that no one except you can see the screen. You may also use a security screen for your laptop, especially when you travel.
Limit access to credit cards and account numbers to employees you know you can trust. As soon as an employee leaves (even if the employee left by choice) change any computer passwords that employee might have had.
Watch your Desk
Instruct employees to guard all business information, including account numbers, carefully. Do not leave papers with account information on your desk. Instruct all employees to shred any documents containing sensitive information.
Lock your Files
Keep any financial information under lock and key. If an employee who had access to that filing cabinet leaves, be sure to change the locks.
The Better Business Bureau offers more information about business identity theft at the organization’s website.