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How to protect your business and personal bank accounts

Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.

In 2021, Americans lost approx $5.8 billion of identity theft. There were 2.8 million identity theft incidents reported by consumers, meaning there could have been many more. Of that, $2.3 billion came from scams and $392 million from consumer online shopping. for companies, 47% of all companies, they had to deal with some form of fraud. According to the FBI, in 2020, scams cost US companies more than $1.8 billion. And since 2020, the number of fraud cases has increased by more than 70%.

If you’re not alarmed by this info, you should be.

The hard truth is that while many companies you do business with will try to keep your personal and business information private and inaccessible to these criminals, the bottom line is that you are fully aware of the different types of identity theft out there, and especially , how to prevent it. If you take the position that this is someone else’s responsibility, you are putting yourself and your company at great risk simply by adopting the wrong attitude!

So, here’s some great information you can take action on for both your business and personal protection:

Related: Preventing Identity Theft in Today’s Digital World

1. What is Identity Theft?

The definitions below come directly from the Bureau of Justice Statistics website: The definition of identity theft covers three general types of incident:

  • unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing account

  • unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to open a new account

  • misuse of personal data for fraudulent purposes.

The definition of corporate identity theft (also known as corporate identity theft) is:

  • The illegal imitation of a company.

In that broad definition of corporate fraud, it encompasses any type of business structure that has an Employee Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Tax Identification Number (TIN), meaning it can range from a sole proprietorship making peanuts to a major C-corp generating millions.

2. Different types of identity theft

There are many ways that people can get your business/personal information. These are the most common:

  • Online: This is what most people think of when they think of identity theft. This includes crimeware, which is considered malicious software used to steal personal information. We usually call these things worms. The most common forms are phishing, spyware and Trojan horses via email. And the best way to avoid this is to avoid unsecured networks such as those in airports, coffee shops, etc. Delete all emails that seem suspicious. Another idea is to keep your spyware protection software on your computer systems as up to date as possible.

  • offline: This is almost 90% of how all fraud starts! Let’s call this “old school”. This is when you receive calls or emails requesting your business and/or personal information. Scammers impersonate any number of companies, such as banks, insurance, and even IRS agents! The scammers will always say that you owe them money for some reason (did you know that your bank will never call to say you owe them money? Neither does the IRS). What is the best way to combat this type of fraud? First, never give your business or personal information to any company, no matter how legitimate the call or email may seem. Second, just hang up if it’s a phone call and/or don’t answer an email – just hit delete.

  • Large-scale identity theft: This is when a hacker gets through a firewall at a company like Target and then gains access to your account numbers, credit and/or debit card numbers, and PINs. In cases like this, there’s not much you and I can do to prevent these kinds of breaches. What we can do is be prepared for a quick response. This kind of theft will make national news, so if you hear about it, act immediately by changing and canceling all your usernames and passwords and then ordering new debit and credit cards.

  • Identity theft from internal employees: This is when you have employees who can access essential banking and account information. They can transfer money or Zelle to themselves or to someone else. They can steal checks from your office and write those checks to themselves or others. They can also sell this information to people for cash if they want to. The reality is that if you gave this employee access to your bank account, there’s not much the banks can do since you gave someone access. Therefore, the bank is not at fault, and while they will do what they can to help and get some money back, they are not responsible, but you are. The good news is that the legal system can do something about this situation. The only way to avoid this is either to do all your banking yourself, and/or be REALLY picky about who gets access and what information.

Related: Make your businesses invulnerable to corporate identity theft

3. Business Identity Theft Examples

  • Fake social media accounts: Check your social media accounts and see if there are any Facebook pages, Instagram pages or other social media sites impersonating your business.

  • Fake websites: Naive customers are led to these bogus websites through search engines, various social media ad campaigns or phishing emails.

  • Phishing emails: These fake emails are sent to employees by scammers and usually contain some kind of spyware that activates as soon as you click on a link.

  • False tax information: Scammers use stolen business information to file fraudulent tax returns to try and get a refund.

  • Ransom of your trademark: Criminals steal your company name/logo and register it as an official proprietary trademark. After wreaking havoc, they will demand a ransom to release the trademark!

  • Fake invoices: You get this from a scammer posing as your seller and asking for money. It looks legit because it has the logo, etc. on it.

4. How to Prevent Personal and Business Identity Theft:

There are tons of ways to help prevent identity theft. Here’s a short list to get you started:

  • Shred all statements: Credit cards, bank, mortgage, etc. Better yet, set up automatic payments and use online statements instead.

  • NEVER give out personal/business information over the phone: Never do this unless you have called and can identify the person/company.

  • Software Protection: Consider putting some form of protection on your personal and work computer.

  • Get identity theft protection: Think of companies like LifeLock.

  • Do not keep your SS card in your wallet/purse: Perhaps you could even consider this for ALL of your credit and debit cards?

  • Create longer passwords: If you can get 10-15 digits in there, with a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters, you’ve got a good one.

  • Check your credit reports: Be sure to check your credit reports at least monthly, if not more often. You can get them from the actual credit companies, not the counterfeit ones.

  • Be sensible with online shopping: Exercise your common sense here. Use sites like Amazon and not some unknown site.

  • Use social media wisely: Maybe only send friend requests to people you really know, and check an account that looks weird or strange in some way.

  • Unsecured networks: Steer clear of places like coffee shops that have Wi-Fi but are not safe.

  • Healthy Skepticism: When someone contacts you via email or phone, you should be VERY sure who they are before clicking any links or providing any information.

Pro tip: Ninety percent of fraud is still initiated by a phone call, NOT by someone mysteriously accessing your bank account. I help clients with fraud every week, and the truth is that the fraud happened because they GIVE a fraudster the username and password over the phone. Each. Single. Time. Just be smart, folks.

Related: How to Protect Yourself and Your Business from Fraud

Contents

Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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