Identity theft is a serious threat to businesses, not just consumers
With the recent news stories about retailers having their records compromised by hackers, Americans are focused on the dangers of identity theft. According to a 2012 survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 14 percent of people age 16 or older, or 34.2 million people, experienced one or more incidents of identity (ID) theft in the past.
Identity theft isn’t just something that happens to consumers. Increasingly, criminals are targeting businesses as well. Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin is warning businesses to be on guard for signs of having their business’ name stolen.
Criminals look for ways to steal a business’s identity by gaining access to its bank accounts, credit cards and other sensitive company information. They can do this in a number of ways: hacking into databases, phishing emails, malware, swiping your credit card or other information in the workplace, or dumpster diving for sensitive paperwork. The criminals can then secure lines of credit with banks and retailers at the expense of the victim.
BBB warns businesses to be on the lookout for the following red flags of ID theft:
- You receive a request to verify orders you didn’t place.
- You receive phone calls from someone trying to verify an address for your business that is not associated with your company or that you cannot confirm.
- You receive invoices for storage, shipping or other services that you did not purchase.
The following advice can protect your company against identity thieves:
- Protect your business’s bank accounts. Review your commercial banking agreements to determine your protections and reporting requirements. Consider using a two-person authorization or other arrangement with your bank to protect against fraudulent wire transactions. Beware of phishing scams and monitor your bank account(s) frequently.
- Protect your business identifying information. Guard your Employer Identification Number (EIN) and Tax Identification Number (TIN) the way you would your own Social Security Number. Don’t give them out unless required and shred old documents with business ID information in them. If your business or non-profit is required to give out your EIN, keep a close eye on your credit report.
- Protect and monitor your state business registration information. Regularly review your information with the Secretary of State to make sure your information hasn’t been changed or updated without authorization.
- Protect and monitor your business’ credit card, supplier and trade accounts. Keep an inventory of accounts and key contact information. Review and reconcile account statements as soon as they are received and immediately alert your credit card company if you find fraudulent activity.
- Protect and monitor your business’ credit file. At least once a year, review your business credit reports with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Keep personal and business finances separate and consider placing a credit security freeze on your personal credit file to make it harder for thieves to open new accounts under your business’ name.
- Protect your business’s computers and networks. Restrict use of your business computers to only business activities. Install anti-virus software and keep it updated regularly. Secure your company’s wireless network.
For more information about ways to prevent business identity theft and resources for dealing with the problem if it happens to your business, visit BusinessIDTheft.org, a website operated by the Identity Theft Protection Association and the National Association of Secretaries of State.
To find out more about scams and to report them, visit bbb.org.