Unless you were living under a rock last week, you probably heard about the debacle with Target. This may have made you a little more worried about identity theft, even if you haven’t shopped there recently. To add to your holiday paranoia, perhaps in addition to worrying about your personal finances, you should also be worried about your own business. What if something similar to what happened at Target occurred at the store you own? This isn’t just a concern if you own a retail store. If you’re a doctor who owns a private practice, this type of situation could happen with your patients’ identity and their personal information. Can you say HIPPA violation? OK, now that you’re freaking out, let’s explore what you can do to prevent this situation and how you re-build your image if faced with a similar crisis. First, let’s start with prevention. According to an article from the Associated Press, a security expert interviewed suggested that this was an inside job, and that Target could have done more to prevent such a widespread breach. If you own a business, make sure to invest in the proper security programs and anti-virus software as well as related updates. A security analyst, who advises Target, said that the breach was assisted with a type of malware. You may want to consider requiring background checks for your employees. I myself was required to consent to a government background check for one of the unpaid internships I did when I was in college. If you’re a doctor, one way to protect your patients’ data is to encrypt it. Next, let’s focus on damage control. If your business faces a similar crisis, make sure that you handle it the correct way. Good damage control boils down to good communication. Make sure that you contact those affected right away, to let them know how you have handled the problem and its resolution to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Be sure to use specifics. In my own personal opinion, I feel as though Target didn’t respond quickly enough or effectively ease customers fears. Don’t be afraid to go beyond to show your customers that you’re truly sorry for what happened. People are more willing to forgive than you may think, just take a look at the recent NYC mayoral race. Some of these measures may cost a bit of money, but think of it this way, money spent wisely today is better than money foolishly lost tomorrow. May 2014 be a fraud free and damaged controlled year for your business.

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