The Identity Theft Council has warned small businesses in the United States of the increasing threat of identity theft.
According to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research, fraud accounted for more than $8 billion in damages, while banks, merchants and other providers took approximately $5.4 billion of those losses. Many business leaders and employees aren't aware of the danger posed within their own business and how vulnerable they are to identity theft. There are more than 27 million small businesses in the United States, accounting for more than 99 percent of all U.S. small businesses, with more than 21 million sole proprietors, which the U.S. Small Business Administration states are the most ideal targets for identity theft. "The ITC works with individual identity theft victims and small business owners to educate them about identity theft and to provide resolution services," said Neal O'Farrell, security expert and executive director of the Identity Theft Council. "Unfortunately, small business owners are being targeted more today than ever before due to the criminals ability to easily access important information and go undetected." Because of insecure firewalls among small businesses' personal and financial databases, hackers are able to obtain information easily. In addition, companies are increasingly dependent on digital and cloud systems as a means to operate more efficiently and to cut costs, but aren't taking into consideration the increased risk of having a wide open network without added security measures. Visa suggests that 95 percent of credit card data theft impacts the smallest businesses. The ITC suggests that companies start off by writing a security plan, outlining the most important information of the business necessary for protection. Understanding where information is stored on a network is vital, as the agency notes, "If you don't know what data you have in your business, or where it is, then you can't effectively protect it." If a company plans to use some sort of digital or cloud inclusion to its network, it should consider keeping financial and personal information on an in-house or legacy system that an IT department may be more comfortable with - and especially if that system is proven more secure. Aside from increasing security measures, checking personal and business account statements routinely can also prevent the loss of funds.