Bitcoins turning into cold hard cash. Once-in-a-lifetime “business ventures”. Distant acquaintances stranded overseas. Christmas isn’t just the season of cheer – it’s also the season of scams.
In addition to taking your hard-earned cash, scammers are increasingly going after your personal data.
Identity theft in particular is on the rise, with scammers increasingly going after personal details.
In 2014-15 alone, 126,300 Australians had their personal information stolen and used to commit fraud – even high-ranking police weren’t immune.
Identity thieves target a range of personal details, all with the goal of gaining access to your money, including your business accounts.
Today, our small business accountants in Melbourne will be taking a break from our usual fare to discuss:
- The importance of protecting your data
- The most common ways business data is compromised
- How you can keep your details safe
- And importantly, how we can help!
Why are our small business accountants talking about data?
Simple: with access to your all-important data, thieves can access your business’ bank accounts and other important financial information.
Using this information, they can impersonate you and wreak havoc with your personal or business finances. This personal information can be used to defraud you and your business, negatively affect your credit rating and impact your ability to get a loan in the future.
With your personal information, they may be able to open lines of credit, withdraw money from your business’ bank accounts, make fraudulent purchases or worse!
Some of the information thieves might go after include:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Current address
- Bank account numbers
- Credit card details
- Tax file number (TFN)
- MyGov and ATO login details
- Driver’s licence details
- Passport details
All of this is important information, and can be used to steal from your business, leaving you in a tough financial situation – one that often needs intervention from a small business accountant to fix.
Protecting your personal data and business
It isn’t just your personal data that’s at risk – so too is your business data, especially with more and more business functions being taken online.
Business emails, accounting, banking… with more of these tasks being performed using online platforms, it has become more important than ever that your business’ information is kept secure.
Luckily, there are several things you can do to protect your information…
Be careful who you share your business information with
The only people who should be given your business information are parties that have a legitimate interest in knowing (such as the ATO) or people that you trust (such as your small business accountant!)
Otherwise, requests for information should be carefully-vetted.
It’s also important that you take care what you mention in public.
While the risk of someone overhearing important information is low, it’s still something you’ll want to consider.
Protect your computer and phone
Business data is often accessed or stolen using viruses, malware and other programs.
By protecting your computer and phone against these, you dramatically reduce the chances of your personal data being stolen.
Luckily, you can protect your computer by:
- Updating your antivirus software
- Not clicking on ads or attachments, files or links in emails from strangers
- Avoiding unsecure websites
- Not using public computers or Wi-Fi for business purposes
- Activating security measures like facial recognition and fingerprints
Additionally, it’s important that you avoid using USB sticks you find lying around, as these often contain viruses and keyloggers (programs that track your keystrokes, including passwords).
Protect your passwords
Many cases of computer “hacking” aren’t at all – while it’s possible to crack a password, in the vast majority of cases account “hacks” are simply cases of other parties obtaining your login details.
Naturally, it’s important that your logins and passwords are protected!
No-one else should have access to your passwords – not even your small business accountant.
Simply put, we won’t need access to your MyGov or ATO accounts to do our job.
In fact, we use tools and systems that allow us to look after your small business accounting without access to your accounts at all.
What should you do if your business data is leaked as part of a data breach?
Fake emails, links and viruses are the most common ways that personal data can be stolen from you, but you can protect yourself against each of these by being vigilant.
Sometimes however, you can do everything right on your end and still end up with your personal data being stolen.
In some cases, your data may be obtained not through someone scamming you directly, but by hacking into another website or service.
Whether it’s a deliberate attack of poor data security, the result is the same: your details are now “out in the wild”.
There isn’t much you can do to protect yourself from these – after all, you can’t control other websites’ data security.
That said, there are a couple of protective measures you can take following a data breach…
- Confirm if your data was part of the leak (haveibeenpwned.com is a great starting point)
- Immediately change your passwords and security questions
- Freeze affected cards and accounts
- Dispute any suspicious transactions
- Report the fraud to police
- Inform relevant issuing agencies (in the case of identifying documents) and your bank (in the case of financial information)
- Apply for a Commonwealth Victim’s Certificate – this will be helpful when reestablishing your credentials
The role your small business accountant can play
Are you one of the unlucky ones that has had your important information stolen despite taking all the steps to keep yourself safe? If so, it may be time to arrange a meeting with your accountant.
If you suspect that someone has gotten hold of your details and used them to mess with your business finances, give our business accountants a call.
In addition to planning for your future, your accountant can also help clean up your accounts. That extends beyond tidying up messy spreadsheets, and also involves helping you get back on your feet after fraud as a result of compromised personal details.
Our small business accountants can help identify suspicious transactions, and will also help with all the paperwork that typically arises when your information and data is compromised.
Losing control over your data and finances is terrifying. Add to that all the work that comes with being a small business owner, and you can be left with a nasty headache at the end of the day.
That’s why we’ll look after your case on your behalf. We’ll clean up your accounts and communicate with the bank, ATO and other authorities.
Call our business accountants in Melbourne
Whether it’s problems with your business finances as a result of identity theft, or difficulty keeping up with your monthly compliance requirements, our accountants in Melbourne can help.
No matter what you engage us for, our team takes a client-first approach to our work – we’re always working for you.
You can rest easy knowing that your business finances – as well as your personal information and data – are in good hands with Bruce Edmunds & Associates.