Protect your business from identity theft
Business identity theft happens when criminals pose as owners, officers or employees of a business to illegally get cash, credit, and loans, leaving the victimized business with the debts.
What is business identity theft?
Business identity theft happens when criminals pose as owners, officers or employees of a business to illegally get cash, credit, and loans, leaving the victimized business with the debts. Identity thieves can steal a business' identity by gaining access to their bank accounts and credit cards or by stealing sensitive information such as the Tax Identification Number (TIN), Employer Identification Number (EIN) or the owners' Social Security Number (SSN). Criminals then use the stolen information to open lines of credit with financial institutions or retailers to purchase commercial electronics, home improvement materials, gift cards, and other items that can be bought and exchanged for cash or sold with relative ease.
Business identity thieves are often employees or former employees with direct access to financial information. Victims of business identity theft often don’t find out about the crime until significant losses accumulate, or someone discovers discrepancies on the books. Because of the hidden nature of the transactions, businesses can potentially lose large amounts of money.
Examples of business identity theft
Business identity theft takes many forms. Examples include a variety of schemes involving the fraudulent use of business' information, including:
- Establishing temporary office space and/or merchant accounts in a business's name.
- Ordering merchandise or services with stolen credit card information or with bogus bank account details in the business' name.
- Scamming employees or phishing to get to a business' banking or credit information.
- Going through a business' trash and recycling bins for account numbers and other sensitive data.
- Filing bogus documents with the Secretary of State's office to change the business' registered address or the names of directors, officers or managers of the company, which can later help thieves, open lines of credit with financial institutions and retailers.
Ways to help you prevent and detect business identify theft:
- Update your business filings as soon as any of your business contact information changes. Check your business' filings with the Secretary of State's office at least once a year.
- Notify your local law enforcement authorities of any unauthorized changes and update your Secretary of State business filings with the correct information.
- Monitor your accounts and bills. If an unexpected bill, charge, credit card, or account appears on a statement or a regular bill doesn't arrive, contact the billing company.
- Monitor your business' credit profile with major credit bureaus.
- Protect your sensitive business information as carefully as you do your personal information.
- Secure paper documents in locked cabinets and electronic records in password protected files.
- Establish business data security policies and limit employee access to sensitive business and client information and assets.
- If you must provide sensitive business information over a website or via email, ensure the transmission is secure.
- Shred sensitive business records and financial statements before discarding them.
- Use computer virus protection software.
If you suspect business identity theft:
Speak to the fraud prevention department at each credit reporting agency. Compare the Employer Identification Number (EIN) of the hijacked business to the EIN of your business. Report any discrepancy to the credit reporting agencies.
- Dun & Bradstreet: 1-800-234-3867
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
File a police report
Call your local law enforcement agency and file a report involving business identity theft.
Contact the Bureau of Investigations
Contact the investigations bureau for the state where the business identity theft occurred.
Contact creditors and billing companies
Notify them that your business was the victim of identity theft. Contact creditors where the fraudulent accounts were opened, and request copies of all documents used to open or access the account(s).
File a Statement of Correction with your state's Secretary of State
Send information in the Statement of Correction that your business was the victim of identity theft.
Keep detailed records
Document all contacts, take notes, ask for names of individuals, departments, phone extensions, and record the date you speak with each person. Keep detailed records of your actions to have a paper trail. This will be useful if your credit needs to be repaired.
Make sure creditors and credit reporting agencies receive everything they have requested. Call or send a letter for confirmation.
Review accounts and credit report
Monitor your business' credit profile with credit reporting agencies. Continue to review all charges and transactions on your business account statements and online. Immediately report any discrepancies.
For more information on business identity theft:
National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Business Identity Theft Task Force
National business identity theft