Archive for Risk Management & Insurance

Worried about Tax Return Identity Theft?

Tax-Identity-FraudIf you’re not, you should be. Filing fraudulent tax refunds with stolen identity information is one of the fastest growing areas of identity theft.

Here’s how it works:

Scammers steal your ID info, including your social security number, and then file a fraudulent tax return in your name. They get the refund & disappear with it.

You usually don’t find out until you file your own tax return or are notified by the IRS that you’ve been a victim.

Then you are stuck sorting the whole mess out.

Once you’ve been victimized, the IRS assigns you a PIN number to put on all future tax returns so that you are clearly identified. This should help prevent it from happening again.

Florida, Georgia & the District of Columbia residents seem particularly at risk for this type of identity fraud, so the IRS has a new program to help prevent it.

If you filed a tax return from one of those locations last year, you’re eligible to get a PIN number to help identify you when filing your return this year. It’s a proactive way to tell the IRS that it is really your tax return, not a fake.

Get more information on this program at


Bank Account Cyber Theft

Every week there seems to be a new hacking story in the press. Banks and financial institutions are obviously a huge target for thieves and we all need to know what protection we have if our business or personal bank accounts are hacked.

We worry about losing passwords or laptops, protect our data with online backups, try to avoid phishing schemes, and protect against viruses and other electronic threats to our business. But when it comes to banking, we may all have a false sense of security about how limited our losses will be in the event our bank account is hacked.

What’s the Risk to Your Finances?

The possible loss of your money. If your bank account is emptied by cyber thieves, how do you pay yourself, your employees or your suppliers? Your bank controls the security on your account – will it stand behind you and reimburse your money? And, if so, how long will that take?

If a thief hacks your account and withdraws your funds, what protection do you have? If you don’t know, you need to find out. There isn’t any single answer to this. Each bank has its own set of policies about cyber theft, so the answer can vary from having no protection to complete protection.

Manage the Cyber Theft Risk

When choosing a bank, we all evaluate the services offered, costs, bells & whistles, etc. Most of us don’t ask about the bank’s liability for any cyber theft losses. So if you don’t already know the answer, now might be a good time to check on what your bank’s polices are around financial losses due to cyber theft. And, while you’re at it, check your insurance coverage to see if losses due to electronic theft are covered.

That small print in bank account applications can hide all sorts of surprises. Don’t be caught short.


Children’s Identity Theft

OK, so you do all the right things to protect yourself from identity theft: secure your passwords; check your credit report annually; shred all your documents; don’t click on links in unknown emails; use a good firewall on your computer, etc., etc., etc.

And guess who has their identity stolen? Your son or daughter.

Children’s Identity Theft is On the Rise

Children now receive social security numbers shortly after birth, but they don’t generally apply for credit for another 18 years or so. And they share their lives online as they grow older. It’s a situation that’s ripe for identity theft.

So while you are checking your credit report annually, make sure to check  your children’s reports as well. You may be unpleasantly surprised to find out your children have credit cards and maybe even a mortgage that neither they nor you know anything about.

If you find out there is a problem:

  • contact each of the credit reporting companies (Equifax, TransUnion & Experian) to place a fraud alert on the account
  • file a fraud report with the FTC
  • consider placing a credit freeze on your child’s credit reporting accounts

Identity theft is rampant. It’s happened to millions of people & is even causing billion dollar fraud losses at the IRS. Be defensive and help your kids to understand how to be defensive too. Many people don’t find out about this identity theft until they apply for a first job or car loan or college aid.


Banking Cyber Security

bank building photoDo you know how well you are protected in the event of a cyber attack?

There’s an article in the Financial Times today about cyber theft and business bank accounts. It’s a great reminder for all business owners at the beginning of the new year.

So if you don’t already know the answer, now might be a good time to check on what your bank’s polices are around theft losses due to account hacking.

That small print in banking policies can hide all sorts of surprises. Recovering from a cyber attack will be trouble enough to handle without also losing the balance in your business bank accounts.


Protect Your Cell Phone’s Data

I was with someone recently who thought he had lost his cell phone & I witnessed the panic that ensued.
Fortunately the phone was merely misplaced, but in talking to him about it, it came to light that he did not have even the most minimal security on his phone. And that got me thinking about how often I watch colleagues and friends use their phones without entering a password, which is the first line of mobile phone security.
In addition to our business and personal email, how much other sensitive information is contained on your phone? And what would happen if someone got hold of that information? It could compromise your bank accounts or your business’ confidential materials or even result in easy identity theft.
Our lives are on our smart phones these days – banking information, business documents, email, restaurant preferences, calendars, text messages, contact lists, etc., etc.,…none of which is information you would want to fall into a stranger’s hands.
So, at the very least use a password one your phone – and one that is not easy to guess. It only takes a few seconds to enter a password and that’s time well spent to protect your data. There are also third party applications that allow you to wipe your data if your phone is lost or stolen, which you might want to consider installing if you have sensitive information on your phone. 

If It’s Too Good to Be True…

internet scam photoIt probably is.
This was the exceedingly painful lesson of the mortgage meltdown, with it plethora of liar loans and the promise of ever-increasing property values. But sadly, it seems that internet based scams and get rich quick schemes are popping up with increasing regularity…and bad economic times can tempt even smart people to wonder if any of them are legit.
The internet has made life really easy for scam artists – despite my spam filter settings, at least one or two email offers get through each day touting ridiculous earnings results for internet-based businesses – and all promising these riches with little or no effort on my part.
Seriously, does that really seem likely? Using a little common sense about these pitches can go a long way toward protecting you from the dangers of phishing emails, identity theft and credit card fraud.
The truth is that to build a business on the internet or anywhere else requires work and planning. It is absolutely possible to build successful internet-based businesses and a profitable, cash flowing business. It is also possible to make thousands and millions of dollars on line, but business opportunities touting claims about making millions of dollars working a few hours a day are scams. Making millions may well be true for the people who are selling this idea to the gullible or financially desperate…but that’s most likely because they managed to steal your personal information or hijack your computer when you clicked on the link and accidentally downloaded some malware.
So, before you click on the link or plunk down your hard earned cash on a “too good to be true” deal proclaiming that it is the “secret” to minting money on the internet, think twice – or more – and then move on. If these schemes were real, everyone with an email address would be a millionaire by now. So, proceed with caution.

Protect Your Brand

internet marketing wordsThe internet is a great place to market and sell your products or services, but there’s an aspect of the Wild West about it too.  You control the information that you put up on your website and the information in your press releases, but you can’t control what others post about you or where it gets posted. You can take some steps to find out, however.
So what do you do? You can hire a “clipping service,” which is a company that performs ongoing monitoring of written or electronic publications for a monthly or annual fee. You then receive copies of anything written about the business or individual you specify.
But small businesses may not have the budget for buying this type of service or feel that it isn’t necessary. One way to find mentions about your company on the internet is with Google’s Alerts service. It’s free and you can sign up through your existing Google account or at the Google Alerts site.  
Keeping any eye on your brand’s image on the web is very necessary. At a minimum, it is a good idea for all small businesses to set up alerts for their business, major products and their key employees. You can also use it to keep an eye on your competitors or their products.
Knowing what is being said about your products and company can alert you to problems and also provide insight about possible new products or services. You may even get some ideas about new marketing opportunities.
You’ll probably be surprised where your business pops up and based on your experience with the alert service, you can decide whether or not you need a paid service to monitor the information highway for you.