Don’t be too quick to pack your beach bag as tax season comes to an end. Before closing up your tax practice for the off season, consider taking some time to protect your office and clients’ sensitive personal information while you are away. It’s a good security protocol and just plain good business.
Your office files contain information such as names, Social Security numbers, credit card or other account data that identifies customers. To keep data from falling into the wrong hands, here are a few tips from the Federal Trade Commission:
- Scale down. Keep only the personally identifiable information needed for legitimate business purposes. You may need to check software settings to make sure it’s not preset to keep credit card information permanently. If you must keep information, develop a policy on how you will secure it, how long to keep it and how to dispose of it securely when you no longer need it.
- Lock it. Protect the information that you keep whether it’s an electronic or paper document. Store paper documents and files in a locked room or in a locked file cabinet. Limit access to employees with a legitimate business need and control who has a key. Also, implement access controls for your building and secure any devices that collect sensitive information. If employees are leaving your business, make sure they no longer have access to sensitive information. This may mean you need to terminate their passwords and collect keys and identification cards.
- Pitch it. Properly dispose of what you no longer need. Make sure to shred or burn paper records before discarding. If you are getting rid of old computers or portable storage devices, use software for securely erasing data.
These tips are not exclusive of everything you should do to protect your office and records. For more information, the Federal Trade Commission offers this security guide for businesses.
We hope you enjoy the off season and get well-deserved rest and relaxation! Before you lock the door behind you, remember to do your customers and yourself a favor by taking a few steps to make sure personal information is safe and secure.