Small business owners, you know how important it is to keep your own financial and banking information safe from digital predators. Don't forget to give your client's private information the same careful consideration. Here are some ways to do so:
- Keep control of your hard copies. Keep client's information in a safe place. Shred sensitive information, don't just throw it in the regular garbage or put intact (not shredded) papers in a recycling bin.
- "Client information" covers a lot of ground. It includes not only social security numbers, driver's license numbers, credit card information and bank account numbers, but also includes your client's address and phone numbers.
- Help clients help themselves. Even if you client is willing to send you their personal information in an non-confidential manner, don't accept it. Tell clients not to send personal data over social media and instruct them not to drop off sensitive hard copies in an unsecured way (leaving hard copies on a vacant desk or taping to a door).
- Follow PCI rules. PCI stands for "Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard". If you are a merchant who accepts payment cards, you should be aware of these regulations and how they apply to you. If you are not, you are taking a risk. The PCI website will give you more specific information.
- Follow the guidelines in your own industry. If you are a health care provider, this means following HIPAA. CPAs, lawyers, realtors and other professionals will have their own guidelines for handling confidential client data and information.
- Have a good I.T. plan. Most breaches nowadays are digital. This means securing your website, server, and online payment options. Invest in a good I.T. evaluation if you suspect that you may have a weak link in your system. You should have good virus programs on your devices that are updated and working. Your programs should be current and up-to-date. Don't use public WiFi to transmit your client's information.
- Use common sense. For instance, don't share private information on a cell phone in a public place. It is very easy to misjudge how loudly you are speaking and who is listening. Don't leave papers lying around on a desk that has public access. Keep hard copy documents clipped together, in files and well-organized so that you don't accidentally release someone's information to a third party.
Putting these safeguards into effect may take a little time at first, but soon will become second nature.