Today, more than ever before, small business owners are clamoring to reclaim a measure of privacy in their business and personal lives. Some of the same technology that helps entrepreneurs compete with much larger companies has also put business owner privacy at ever-greater risk. Small business owners are being pitched constantly and studies show they now place a higher premium on their privacy when deciding which vendors to do business with. Respect for privacy has become the #2 reason among 60 "drivers" that spur business owners to select or recommend a vendor. The only thing more important is easy-to-use products or services. But opening yourself to excessive sales pitches is only one of many privacy concerns. Fear of fraud or identity theft due to availability of business information online and elsewhere is also widespread. These three steps can help:
- Make your domain registrations private
- Know your privacy rights
- Fight back against telemarketers.
Select private registration services for your Web domain namesWhen you register a domain name on the Internet, you'll be asked to provide details such as your business name, address, phone number, email contact and other details. That information goes into a massive database and is often a reason your email address winds up on some spammer's list.
Discover the ins and outs of privacy protectionStart with guarding your Social Security number (SSN) more closely.
Don't just hang up on telemarketersAsk who the caller represents and request that your name be placed on their internal do-not-call list.
- When dealing with government or banking matters, you SSN may be required. But while many businesses request your SSN, you are not legally required to provide it unless it involves an IRS notification of some kind. Whenever possible, use your business Employer Identification Number (EIN) instead.
- Federal and state laws allow you to take legal action against telemarketers who do not add your number to their internal do not call list and who call you back within 12 months of requesting to be placed on that list.
- If you're concerned about others accessing your computer files when you're not around, password protect your PC screen saver so that only you can deactivate it. Go to the Control Panel (click Start, then select Settings, Control Panel) and double-click on Display. Select the Screen Saver tab and check the Password Protect box.
- All it takes is a social security number for a thief to obtain credit cards, loans and other lines of credit in your name. And it's not so tough to find. Protect yourself from identity theft by shredding credit card receipts, bills, pre-approved credit card applications and other sensitive documents before throwing them in the trash.
- Business owners get loads of credit card and other similar offers. But the law requires financial institutions to clearly communicate their privacy policies to their customers. Most will allow you to opt-out of their information sharing programs if you so choose.