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Security solutions: Protect privacy with diligence

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Today, more than ever before, small-business owners nationwide are clamoring to reclaim a measure of privacy in their business and personal lives. Some of the same technology that has been so liberating for small business — putting entrepreneurs on the same plane with much larger companies — has also put business owner privacy at greater risk.

And with big companies focusing more and more on the small-business market, business owners are starting to react. “Small-business owners have gone from being largely ignored by the Fortune 500 to being the belle of the ball,” says John Warrillow, whose firm Warrillow & Co. advises big business on how to reach the small-business market.

“They’re getting pitched constantly and now place a higher premium on their privacy than ever before.”

Respect for privacy is now the No. 2 reason among 60 “drivers” that spur business owners to select a vendor themselves or recommend one to fellow entrepreneurs. The only thing more important was easy-to-use products or services. But opening yourself to excessive sales pitches is only one of many privacy concerns small-business owners have. Many see the Web as a powerful resource but fear ordering or requesting information there because it will only lead to more sales calls or emails. And fear of fraud or identity theft due to availability of business information is also widespread.

So what can you do as a business owner to protect yourself, your business and your privacy? Lots, actually.

Here are three keys to small-business privacy protection:

  1. Make your domain registrations private. When you register a domain name on the Internet, you’ll be asked to provide details such as your business name, address, phone number, e-mail contact and other details. That information goes into a massive database and is often a reason your e-mail address winds up on some spammer’s list. Most domain registrars, such as GoDaddy, Network Solutions and others, let you protect your information with “private registration” services that mask your identity. It costs a small annual fee but is well worth it.

  2. Know your privacy rights. Start with guarding your Social Security number (SSN) more closely. 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.

  3. Fight back against telemarketers, spam and other unwanted and intrusive ads. When you do get a call, don’t just hang up. Ask who the caller represents and request that your name be place on their internal do-not-call list. 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.

— Daniel Kehrer, editor
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