How Safe are Your Practice Finances?

credit-cardsDoes your practice use debit or credit cards?

No doubt you have been reading about the many hacks that are taking place. The ones we hear about are the big ones like Target and Adobe. But there are hundreds of smaller hacks daily. In fact, credit and debit card fraud cost us all greater than $10 billion each year.

Many of us have had our credit and debit cards hacked at one time or another. Once I purchased airline tickets in Bali and in London…on the same day. Fortunately, Amex figured it out, called me and I was not responsible for the charges. What was really scary to me though was that the card had not been lost.

Debit card users, depending on the bank policies, may not be so lucky. That money is deducted from your account immediately in most cases, and it could be weeks before all or a portion of your money is returned.

In our business, we use our cards for all sorts of transactions from local purchases, to monthly subscriptions and services, to bill paying. It should be clear by now that having your card in your possession does not guarantee that your account will not be compromised.

There are multiple ways for a card to be hacked offline and online including faulty software, hacked websites, phishing, and hacked card readers to name a few.

At this point in time credit card technology still relies on magnetic strips but probably will change in the near future to include chips in the credit card. Hopefully, this new technology will decrease fraudulent use.

Until this happens, here are a few tips to protect ourselves and our practices:

1. In the case of a debit card, find out your bank’s policy regarding fraudulent debit card charges. Recently following the Target hack, it took a threat of closing an account to get the bank to cancel and issue a new debit card of a friend.
2. Discuss fraud with your credit card company. What kind of alerts can be placed on the account?
3. Watch your PIN numbers! Do not use 1111 or 1234 to secure your accounts!
4. If you access your account information online, use an “ugly” password with letters, numbers and symbols. Better yet, use a password manager to ensure you have secure passwords. Examples include Roboform and 1Password.
5. If you are participating in online transactions, make sure you are on a secure website.
6. Keep your own website software up to date as well as your firewall and virus protection.
7. Avoid emails and websites that appear to be involved with phishing.
8. Check your bank and credit card statements on a regular basis.
9. Consider using credit cards only. Make sure you pay them off on a regular basis. If you don’t carry a balance you should not incur additional charges.

If you have someone else in your practice with access to accounts, you’ll want to make sure you have checks and balances in place. Make sure you have completed a thorough background check and do your own due diligence regarding your accounts. After all, no one cares about your money as much as you do.

Have you had problems with credit card fraud? Share with your colleagues below.

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Barbara C. Phillips, NP, FAANP is a professional speaker, author, clinician and business owner who provides business education, resources and support to Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants and other Advance Practice Clinicians — both for the employed and self-employed clinician. Additional information about Ms. Phillips is available at www.BarbaraCPhillips.com.

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