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Technology: Preventing Online Identity Theft

What's New in Technology

April 2008

Technology: Preventing Online Identity Theft

As a business owner, you must do everything possible to make sure customers can shop safely on your website. Visitors to your website should see a prominent display of information that lets them know you use reputable third-party experts to safeguard all transactions. Here are the basics that every retail website must have:

  1. Invest in the best security technology and keep your security procedures current. Set up firewalls and SSL encryption, and have a reputable technology professional review and update your security procedures regularly.


  2. Use a well known, experienced transaction verification company—VeriSign or TRUSTe perhaps are two of the best known—to safeguard your customers’ financial and personal data and to prevent hackers from accessing your site.


  3. Post your privacy policy in a prominent location on your site. Let customers know what data you collect during transactions and how you store it. Include information on the security measures you use to protect stored data, and if you plan to share customer data with other companies, you should advise your customers accordingly.
Be a Proactive Consumer

When it’s your turn to go online to make purchases, make sure the vendors’ websites adhere to the basics above. You’ll also want to:
  • Check that the webpage address that appears when you connect begins with https (this configuration with the “s” tells you that the connection is secured). Under no circumstances should you enter personal information onto a page that does not show an https address.

  • Look for the padlock icon on your browser (either the top or bottom of the screen). It must be visible and show the lock closed before you can safely enter data.

  • Be cautious about accessing websites via emails. Remember no reputable company will email a request for you to re-send your personal data via email or provide a quick link to a website for you to do so. Thieves have not only become very skilled at mimicking the logo, style and look of financial and retail sites, but also in luring customers onto websites whose names look so much like the real site that the unsuspecting don’t notice the discrepancy. If you have the slightest doubt about what or whom you’ve reached, leave and start again by entering the correct website address of the company into your browser.

  • Many retailers ask if you’d like to keep your credit card information on file at their website to speed up future transactions. It is smart to avoid this. If thieves manage to hack into the site, why make it easy for them to steal your data.
If you should fall victim to identity theft, act fast to minimize the damage. As soon as possible, call all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Close the compromised credit card account(s). Document the theft by filing a police report and a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you have been a victim of identity theft, periodic checks of your credit report are essential to make sure your data has not been sold to other crooks. If you haven’t had problems, a regular review of your report is still a smart move.
 

These articles are intended to provide general resources for the tax and accounting needs of small businesses and individuals. Service2Client LLC is the author, but is not engaged in rendering specific legal, accounting, financial or professional advice. Service2Client LLC makes no representation that the recommendations of Service2Client LLC will achieve any result. The NSAD has not reviewed any of the Service2Client LLC content. Readers are encouraged to contact their CPA regarding the topics in these articles.

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