Identity Theft: Are Freelancers Ready?
The world of online connectivity has changed our lives in many, many ways. In the work world, businesses are changing how they seek out and hire new employees, and individuals are leaving the typical nine-to-five workday behind in order to set their own schedules.
Thanks to the power of the internet, more and more people are able to make a viable income while maintaining a flexible business life. There’s an entire international workforce out there of lucky freelancers who have managed to avoid the “work from home!” and “earn hundreds of dollars a day while doing nothing!” scams, opting instead to carve out a real living through their talent, work ethic, and ambition.
But more than most typical members of the workforce, freelancers may have additional identity theft and personal data security issues to worry about. As a per-job hire, you have to be even more careful about who needs your information, who accesses it, and where it ends up.
The first hurdle is the aforementioned scams. There is so many bogus job offers out there that it can be tough to find genuine work. Even worse, those bogus offers aren’t just undercutting you or expecting your best work for pennies on the dollar. They may actually be trying to steal your information for identity theft.
Protecting your technology as a freelancer is a much bigger issue than it is for regular digital citizens. It’s not just that you can’t work if your computer gets frozen by a virus, but depending on the industry in which you work, you could face serious legal ramifications if a virus hands sensitive material to a hacker. Keeping your antivirus and anti-malware software up to date is a must for anyone who relies on the internet—and virtual strangers—for work.
As a freelancer, your personal information may be under attack every single day. How? Unlike a traditional job where you submit your personal identifiable information to the human resources department when you get hired, freelancers repeatedly have to submit their birthdates, Social Security numbers, and other sensitive data to a revolving door of employer-clients. In a digital workplace, that can be even more daunting since you have no way of retrieving it or knowing if it’s in the wrong hands. Smart freelancers make sure it’s only shared where it needs to be.
Tax time is one of those instances where the daily grind of a steady office job might start to look good. Your friends know to expect one W-2 form from their employers before they can file their taxes, but depending on the numbers of clients and the volume of work you did for each one, you may be sitting on your hands, waiting for each and every 1099 form. That’s a lot of forms coming to your mailbox (or sadly, even to your email inbox!) that you have to protect from identity thieves.
The biggest headache for a lot of freelancers is getting paid, and there can be some financial close calls while you wait for those funds to reach your bank account. Unfortunately, if you have a large number of clients who make small payments to you—as opposed to freelancers who keep a short list of regular clients and therefore only have to monitor their accounts for payments from a small number of sources—it can be tough to stay on top of your bank account or credit cards. Don’t let the changing face of your employment status keep you from checking your accounts regularly and looking for signs of trouble.
With the ever-changing internet connected world we live in, freelance work for a wide variety of clients may someday become the norm rather than the really awesome exception. The only way to last in this sort of work environment is to be prepared to protect yourself and your information at all times.
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