Protecting Your Tax Preparation Business Against Identity Theft and Fraud - TaxAct ProAdvance

In the U.S., there is a new identity fraud victim nearly every two seconds. Most of this theft targets financial information directly. After all, access to bank accounts and credit card information is the ultimate goal of most criminals.

Yet, a lot of identity theft centers around personal information like driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers, and contact details. Using these, criminals can often indirectly access sensitive financial data.

As a business owner, it is important to take preventative measures to reduce identity theft within your payment environment. This article explains some of those steps.

How to Keep Your Payment Environment Secure

The most important step involves using a secure payment processor that adheres to PCI-compliant guidelines. Doing so addresses many of the vulnerabilities that make identity theft so easy for criminals.

  • If accepting credit or debit card payments at your office, it’s time to invest in an EMV terminal that can securely process chip-enabled cards. This won’t necessarily stop identity theft, but it will help to reduce the amount of in-person credit card fraud.
  • If you allow your clients to pay for services online, you also need a secure payment gateway to keep your customers’ financial data safe. Another alternative is to use hosted payment pages that remove the need to store credit card details locally within your environment.

The above should serve as your foundation, but they only represent the bare minimum steps you should take.

For additional protection against identity theft and fraud, consider implementing the following:

1. P2PE and Tokenization

Point-to-point encryption (P2PE) encodes financial information from the moment the card is swiped, while the data is in transit, all the way to authorization.

With tokenization, sensitive information is replaced with randomly generated IDs or “tokens” that are useless to everyone else but your payment processor.

2. Fraud Management Tools

With our advanced fraud management tools, you can set up security filters to isolate suspicious activity. For example, the IP filter allows you to block transactions from specific countries based on IP address. The velocity filter makes it easier to prevent criminals from testing multiple cards against your merchant account.

3. Change How You Communicate with Customers

Many instances of identity theft happen via phishing, in which criminals use “fake” emails designed to look like they’re coming from you. This phishing strategy can also work via telephone.

It is important to let your customers know that you will never ask for personal information via phone or email. Encourage them to bookmark your site and save your phone number so they can contact you directly if they ever need to resolve an issue.

4. Have Your Customers Check Their Statements

Identity theft usually starts as a trickle. Criminals will test newly acquired accounts with smaller purchases. Thereafter, they’ll scale up and increase their fraudulent activity.

Encourage your customers to check their credit card and bank statements regularly to verify if any unauthorized purchases have been made. Most banks also allow you to set up automatic alerts every time a card is used. If your customers live in the U.S., they can request free credit reports through sites like CreditKarma.com.

You might also tell your customers to use more secure passwords that include letters (uppercase and lowercase), numbers and symbols.

Need Additional Help Protecting Your Business from Identity Theft?

No single strategy (or collection of strategies) can completely stop identity theft from happening. However, the harder you make it for would-be criminals, the less vulnerable you become.

For additional tips on how to protect your business from fraud, contact our payment security team today.