For business accounts, using a separate, unique password for each major service—making sure that none of these passwords are the same as those associated with personal accounts—is essential.

One solution is to use a password encryption program. These applications help you manage your accounts with user names, passwords, and notes directly on your mobile phone in a “secure” way. You won’t have to remember which password you use for which account. You can put all your accounts in one database, which is locked with one master password. This master password needs to be a very strong one because it unlocks the entire database.

The accounts in the database are encrypted using an encryption algorithm. There are a multitude of programs for password encryption and management.

I personally don’t like the idea of storing all my passwords in the cloud—encrypted or not. One encryption company was recently hacked—making millions of passwords available to the perpetrator. I still prefer to list all my passwords in a document offline, then encrypt that document and keep a backup in a locked and secret location. Your computer may have its own encryption program so you don’t have to buy one. Mac has its keychain, which encrypts your passwords. However, if you don’t go into your browser preferences and turn off the “autofill” option, those passwords aren’t really secure. There are tutorials on YouTube that show you how to encrypt files safely on a Mac. On my PC, Microsoft Word has its own encryption facility.

Nothing is going to be foolproof; you need to take the action that makes the most sense for you and your business, and then stop worrying. Take an hour or two to research these applications and make your choice carefully. Some are online, some are offline software; and some offer a combination of the two. Here are two articles that will help you choose:

It’s also a good idea to use HTTPS website logins.

If you have employees, schedule a meeting to share this information. Not only will your business be more secure; you will be helping your employees to protect themselves and their families. It’s pointless to spend your time worrying about the possibility of being defrauded—but if you take appropriate actions to protect your business, you can move forward to more productive enterprises.

Since his identity was stolen in 2003, Daniel Bulley has volunteered as an advocate with the Identity Theft Resource Center. As vice president of the MCA Chicago, Bulley is passionate about helping contractors take the steps necessary to protect themselves and their businesses from fraud.


20 actions you can take this week:

  • Set up a screen lock for every device.
  • Use password encryption and use a unique password for every account.
  • Use https:// login when available on websites.
  • Install and run antivirus and antispyware programs regularly.
  • Don’t give out your full social security number, birthdate, or mother’s maiden name. In rare instances when your social security number is necessary, ask how they will protect it.
  • Contact all accounts which have your mother’s maiden name (bank, credit cards) and give them a different one that you remember.
  • Use a shredder that cross-cuts your sensitive documents.
  • Don’t leave sensitive information-containing mail in your mail box. Don’t leave outgoing bills in the box for pickup.
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card.
  • Don’t tell your computer to remember passwords when prompted.
  • Do not put account numbers on checks when paying bills. Use last 4 digits if anything.
  • Keep all banking files, credit cards and other sensitive information locked up. Include a list of the 800-numbers of all your credit cards. If you are backing up your business data on an external hard drive, keep that locked up too.
  • If you receive packages you didn’t order call the company that sent the packages.
  • If you receive phone calls from creditors you don’t know, don’t give out personal information and make your own calls to follow up.
  • Get State ID cards for non-drivers. This protects your kids from false IDs being made in their names.
  • Don’t carry your social security number on you. Be aware that some other forms of ID contain this number (insurance cards, Medicare cards, veterans IDs, driver’s licenses).
  • Be careful of people looking over your shoulder or taking pictures with a camera phone.
  • Cover the keypad when entering ATM or other codes.
  • Never give sensitive information to someone that calls you. You should initiate the call.
  • Don’t enter online contests.