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Business Identity Theft - Small Business Security Center

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What is Business Identity Theft?

Business identity theft is a newer development in the criminal enterprise of 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 the business' 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 establish lines of credit with banks 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.

Perpetrators of business identity theft are often employees or former employees with direct access to financial documentation. Victims of business identity theft often do not 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 of business identity theft 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 name of a victimized business.
  • Scamming employees or using phishing attacks to get to a business's 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 in order to change the business' registered address or the names of directors, officers or managers of your company, which can later help thieves establish lines of credit with banks and retailers.

Business Identity Theft Security Tips

The following strategies can help you prevent and detect business identify theft:

  • Update your business filings as soon as any of your business contact information changes and 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 shows up 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 your sensitive personal information.
  • Secure paper documents in locked cabinets and electronic records in password protected files.
  • Establish business data security policies and limiting 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.

Additional Resources


Report Fraud, Business Identity Theft or Suspicious Activity

If you believe you are the victim of fraud or business identity theft, call Bank of the West immediately at
TTY 800-659-5495

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