Fraud affects millions of Americans every year, and small businesses are especially vulnerable to cybercriminal activity and fraudulent charges. It’s easier than ever for would-be criminals to steal money from your organization by breaking into your bank account or stealing funds directly from a customer via devices inserted at your POS.
But although bank account fraud is more common than before, there are ways you can protect your small business from it. Let’s take a look at those ways one by one.
Separate Your Business and Personal Accounts
For starters, always keep a separate business and personal bank account. You should never spend money on personal expenses with your business bank account and vice versa.
Why? Simply put, because it limits the activity your business bank account is exposed to. If, for example, you swipe your card at a sketchy gas station, but it’s your personal credit card, your business bank account is not affected, even if a fraudster manages to get a hold of some of your personal funds.
This can be a lifesaver in circumstances where you can’t afford financing interruptions for your enterprise. Plus, keeping a separate business bank account is just good fiscal policy, as any accountant will tell you.
Check Your Business Bank Account Regularly
Next, be sure to check your business bank account very often, at least once per week.
The more you check your business account and its activity and available charges, the more easily you’ll be able to spot fraudulent activity or potential bad charges. This takes less time than you think, especially once you catch up to your current list of charges.
For example, if you dedicate 15 minutes a day to checking your business bank account, you can easily catch fraudulent charges or signs of criminal activity before they spiral out of control. Alternatively, have an accountant or someone on your team do this job if you trust them with your finances. As an added bonus, you’ll be better able to keep an eye on your credit score this way.
Invest in IT Security Software
Naturally, as a small business owner, you must invest in high-quality IT security software. This includes both a digital firewall as well as anti-malware, anti-spyware, and anti-ransomware software.
Not only should you ensure your security software is up to snuff by purchasing it from a well-known provider, but you should also update your security software all the time. Whenever a security software program or firewall requests an update, let it go through, even if it takes a bit of time.
The computer virus industry is always evolving, and your antivirus measures must be ready to meet new, modernized threats 24/7.
Use Strong Passwords
In addition to the above tips, you can and should use strong passwords for your business bank account and all other important workplace accounts. Strong passwords typically include a mix of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.
It’s never a good idea to use the same password for everything, especially your bank accounts. To avoid this, consider using a password manager. These software tools allow you to store different strong account passwords without having to remember them by heart. Then you can plug those passwords into your accounts when you reach your business computer.
Alternatively, write down your password on a piece of notepaper and keep it in your pocket. Just be sure never to lose the paper.
Bonus Tip: Two-Factor Authentication
You can go even further with this type of security and introduce two-factor authentication to your business bank accounts and other sensitive information. Two-factor authentication, in a nutshell, has you provide two means of identification before you can log into your business bank account, like a password and a security question.
Most online banks offer two-factor authentication these days, so implementing this throughout your organization should be relatively straightforward.
Use Encryption and a VPN
It’s a good idea to further secure your business bank accounts by using encryption. Windows and Mac devices alike both let you encrypt your hard drives and flash drives using built-in tools.
Train Your Staff
Of course, your business bank accounts will only be truly secure if your staff knows what to look for and how to avoid creating breaches themselves. To that end, you should train your staff in good cyber hygiene practices, like:
- Knowing how to identify and not open phishing emails
- Knowing when and where to log into business bank accounts, such as not over public Wi-Fi networks
- How to keep their ID cards or password safe
- And more
It’s well worth it to hold occasional cybersecurity seminars for your employees to make sure they are trained well in this area.
Utilize Quality Merchant Services
Don’t forget to sign up for high-quality merchant services providers. Merchant services providers operate the electronic gateways that customers use to pay your business with debit or credit cards or other electronic funds.
Most importantly, make sure your chosen merchant services provider practices good PCI compliance. PCI compliance is essentially a set of security standards implemented by the Payment Card Industry.
Launched in 2006, it helps enforce security practices across all merchant services providers and may help you minimize the likelihood of fraud via your POS system. Fortunately, the vast majority of merchant services providers already follow PCI compliance standards to the letter. The best service providers offer other financial analysis tools, too, which can help you calculate operating cash flow, see how much you need to pay in taxes, and more.
At the end of the day, protecting your small business bank accounts from fraud means doing your due diligence as a small business owner and investing in antivirus software. You should also follow the above tips in conjunction with each other; the more means you take to protect your business bank account, the less likely it is you’ll be a victim of fraud at any point. Good luck.