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Protecting Your Business: Identity theft and reputational fraud

Business & Commercial

Protecting Your Business: Identity theft and reputational fraud
Identity theft happens when someone uses information about you without your permission.

Fraud doesn’t always mean a direct financial loss. It could be identify theft or reputational damage from online activity you can’t control which damages your credibility.

Identify theft

Identity theft happens when someone uses information about you without your permission. They could use your name and address, credit card or bank account numbers to order products and services online, set up business trading accounts with businesses or even pretend to be you if they are arrested!

Identity thieves could even obtain passports, receive government benefits and apply for loans by accessing your personal data such as:

  • Credit card information and bank account numbers.
  • Name, date of birth and signature.
  • Your personal address.
  • Mother’s maiden name (often used to verify your identity).
  • Online usernames and passwords, driver’s license number.

Often much of this information is online (see how much data is available by looking at your social media accounts or conduct an internet search on your name), or it could be as easy as someone rifling through your rubbish bins at night to collect discarded information.

Never provide your personal information over the phone, via text message, email or the internet.

Avoiding identify theft

There are a number of things you can do to reduce the chance this happens to you.

  • Don’t use public computers or Wi-Fi hotspots to access or provide personal information or login to online banking. Hotspot from your phone instead.
  • Create strong and unique passwords for online accounts and at home.
  • Use 2 Factor Authentication.
  • Always accept any updates to your computer system as often it includes anti-virus improvements.
  • Any URL with “https” and a closed padlock symbol is more secure when buying online.
  • Try to limit the personal information on social media.
  • Be wary of anyone making contact with you that misspells common words, grammar is used incorrectly, they ask for a copy of your passport or driver’s license, claim that you have a virus on your computer, you owe taxes, you’ve won a prize, there is an unbelievable free offer (your initial thought was right, it isn’t to be believed).

Reduce the potential for reputational risk

Reputational risk is a threat to the brand of your business. Usually due to an event that causes negative public perception or bad publicity.

Examples of reputational risk

  • Your business receives low ratings or negative comments from customers inside their social media channels. Their feedback may be untrue or mis-communicated.
  • A business decides to launch a new product to market. In order to launch the product quickly, the usual quality testing processes aren’t completed. The product gains a reputation for breaking easily, so sales and the business’s reputation drops. The product is relaunched having gone through a much more stringent quality testing process and is much higher quality, however sales don’t improve as the brand is now viewed as cheap and unreliable.
  • Reputational risk can also occur due to events outside of your control, for example, if a hacker was to access all of your customer’s private information and publish it online. Or if you hire a staff member who handles a customer complaint badly and that customer records their response and takes it to the media.

There are ways to mitigate these types of risks to your brand.

1. Protect yourself against data breaches.

Make sure you back up your data, secure your devices and network and encrypt important information.

2. Be vigilant about customer service mishaps.

Make sure you have customer service training for all of your employees to ensure they understand the importance of professionally (and successfully) dealing with complaints.

3. Ensure your hiring process contains thorough background checks.

Background checks and other pre-employment checks are a smart step to include in your hiring process.

4. Adopt core values into your business that your employee can get behind.

Pick four or five core values that you want your businesses to be governed by. Common values include diversity, accountability, innovation, passion, integrity and respect.

5. Have a ‘crisis’ communication plan.

If something does go wrong, you need to be prepared to respond quickly. Having a crisis communication plan specifically for your business is essential. It could be as simple as having a list of all potential risks with your planned response to address them listed.

 

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