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While individuals have to protect their own personal information to prevent identity theft, businesses have a greater responsibility to protect their customers' personal information from identity theft. Here are four precautions businesses should take:
1) Use alarm systems.
We may often think that customer information stored in our computer systems is stolen by savvy Internet computer hackers, but there's plenty of identity theft happening the old fashioned way – by physically stealing documents. Alarm systems are effective deterrents – especially those that are monitored by a security company. In addition to using an alarm system, make it more difficult for thieves to access your offices by using deadbolts on external doors and secure exposed windows with security film, bars, screens or shatter-proof glass.
2) Lock up business records.
Use locking file cabinets to store physical business records. Be sure to lock the filing cabinets at night and during the day when there's no one available to monitor access. For computer system and database back ups, lock them in a safe or a security deposit box. Don't leave them lying around.
3) Shred paper documents.
Tossing business records out with the trash or placing in the recycling bin is an invitation for disaster. Shred all business records that you no longer need before placing into the recycling bins and don't forget to include any mail or billing documents that has sensitive information on it. If you have large volumes of data that needs to be destroyed, contract with a shredding service that will come to you. They will shred the documents and dispose of them properly.
4) Limit computer access.
Password-protect your computers and limit access to sensitive information on a “need-to-know” basis. Also, when a employee no longer works for your business, immediately cut off their access to your computer network. Yes, this could lead to more expense, but a disgruntled employee can do a lot of damage. You must take all steps necessary to prevent and avoid identity theft for you and your customers.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|