A couple of years in the past, I used to be in sitting busy airport terminal, ready to board my subsequent flight. Making the a lot of the free public wifi, I had my laptop computer perched on my knees, and was attempting to squeeze in some work between layovers. I took a break to do a spherical of house looking on-line, and located an inventory on Craigslist for a cute place in Los Angeles. The deal appeared too good to be true.
The itemizing led me to an internet software that requested for normal information, together with my Social Security quantity. It was solely after I stuffed it out and was about to enter my bank card data for the applying payment that realized I would’ve been a sufferer of a phishing rip-off. Upon nearer inspection, the web site appeared bogus. What’s extra, I by no means acquired a follow-up e-mail or cellphone name.
Sadly, such id theft makes an attempt are fairly widespread. According to the 2019 Identity Fraud Study, in 2018 14.four million folks within the U.S. have been victims of id theft. And freelancers resembling myself, who work remotely and whose livelihoods relies upon largely on having an internet presence, could be extra weak to sure forms of scams.
Here are a handful of id safety points freelancers face specifically, and what measures we are able to take to safeguard extremely delicate data:
Be Wary of Public Wi-fi Hotspots
If you’re understanding of a espresso store, airport terminal or library and are tapping into the free public wi-fi, know that you simply’re at the next danger to malware and snooping. What’s extra, your passwords are extra weak to being intercepted by hackers.
Try to keep away from public wi-fi on the whole, says Kelvin Coleman, govt director of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). If you’re utilizing a wifi hotspot, don’t transmit private data or go browsing to monetary accounts. If doable, use a non-public community, or to a private hotspot that’s tethered to your cellphone.
If you’re into saving cash like me, you get excited when you’ll be able to entry free hotspots. But it could be worthwhile to pay for a private hotspot from your own home web supplier or cable firm.
Don’t Transmit Sensitive Info Over Email
When onboarding with a brand new consumer, you could be requested to offer varieties that embrace beneficial private or monetary information — assume W-9 varieties along with your Social Security Number, voided verify stubs, and banking information.
Ideally, you shouldn’t be emailing delicate information like that, however it may be powerful to get round it. If you’re relaying such information, make sure you password-protect your recordsdata. Sure, it’s one other step, however it might decrease your odds of being a sufferer of id theft.
Get an EIN
When I was working at an leisure labor union and employed freelance photographers to cowl our occasions, one freelancer refused to e-mail over her W-9. She was involved with having a doc along with her Social Security quantity floating round within the digisphere. To be sincere, the time, I didn’t totally perceive her concern. I now see that she had a degree.
When it involves W-9 varieties specifically, you can apply for what’s known as an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. While sole proprietors aren’t required to get an EIN, getting an EIN means you don’t have to make use of your Social Security quantity on these W-9 varieties.
Opt for Two-Step Verification
Opt for two-step verification along with your e-mail and financial institution accounts. What this implies is that for a person to entry an e-mail account, you’ll want to offer two items of data so that you can log in to an account. This provides an additional layer of safety. And in the event you may toggle between accounts or verify e-mail from completely different computer systems, it actually will help shield your accounts from getting hacked.
Protect your Identity on Freelancer Platforms
As a freelancer, it’s very important that you’ve got an internet presence. Whether it’s knowledgeable web site, sustaining a LinkedIn or social media accounts, or establishing profiles on freelance marketplaces, you’ll wish to watch out about what information you’re placing out there.
While emails and cellphone numbers won’t be sufficient for a scammer to steal your id, it might doubtlessly clue thieves into discovering beneficial private information. You might schedule appointments utilizing a scheduler. And you understand how you might want to insert a bodily handle on the footer of emails and newsletters you ship out? In lieu of utilizing your own home handle, take into account paying for a P.O. field and utilizing that as an alternative.
Besides not together with private data on-line — this consists of your cellphone quantity and home handle, you’ll wish to even be looking out for faux profiles. We’re speaking about con artists utilizing your cellphone and private particulars, and pretending to be you. To keep away from create accounts on platforms even in the event you don’t plan on utilizing them, recommends Chris Parker, founding father of What Is My IP Address.
“Having a presence can prevent someone else from using your handle and likeliness to create a fake profile.” What’s extra, make certain your profiles are linked to your web site, and the opposite means round says Parker. “This way people who are looking at your profiles can see that it’s really you.”
If you notice a faux profile of somebody pretending to be you, you’ll wish to report it. You can file a grievance with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Consider Cyber Insurance
If you’re a solopreneur who maintains e-mail lists for advertising and marketing functions — assume e-mail blasts, newsletters, and on-line campaigns — you’ll wish to encrypt these recordsdata. If sustaining and rising these lists are an integral a part of your small business, you may want to contemplate cyber insurance coverage. In case there’s an information breach, cyber insurance coverage might assist cowl losses and recoup damages.
I do know — you’re already in all probability paying for a slew of insurance coverage: well being, enterprise legal responsibility, and incapacity. But if buying and sustaining different folks’s private information is an integral a part of your small business, you can endure some severe losses within the case of an information breach.
Other explanation why you may wish to take into account getting cyber insurance coverage? You may wish to take into account cyber insurance coverage in the event you course of on-line funds, and retailer data, recordsdata, and information on the cloud.
A basic rule of thumb with insurance coverage: make certain it covers what you want it to and that you simply buy enough protection. Not being sincere along with your state of affairs or what you want might put in danger for being denied protection once you want it.
Identity theft can have an effect on just about anybody who makes use of a pc, ship an e-mail, or has a smartphone. And as solopreneurs, freelancers could be significantly weak to sure varieties.
Bottom line: The fewer the private particulars you set on the market, the safer you’ll be. “Your information is valuable data, and is currency on the dark web,” points out Coleman. “You’ll want to be a minimalist, and share as little as possible.”