Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the history of America, and businesses are not immune. There were more than 16 million victims of identity theft in the U.S. just last year, which works out to more than one new victim every three seconds. To put that in perspective, that means there were more victims of identity theft last year than there were reported murders, attempted murders, burglaries, attempted burglaries, arsons, vehicle thefts, purse snatchings, pick pocketings, shoplifting, and check fraud combined. With so many crimes and criminals in circulation, don’t make the mistake of assuming that it will never come creeping into your business.
Identity theft in a business can take a number of different forms:
- You personally can fall victim, especially if you run a small business, mix business and personal finances, or keep personal information on business computers.
- Hackers, insiders, and others can steal employee and customer information and use that in turn to steal their identities.
- Your business could even be a victim of business identity theft, the growing problem of thieves creating fake versions of real businesses to commit massive fraud.
And business identity theft is such a big problem, the National Association of Secretaries of State created a task force to tackle it. It’s very easy for thieves to obtain publicly available records on your business, create fake documentation, open bank accounts, open lines of credit and obtain loans. They can also take out property leases and use those physical locations to accept orders for merchandise they order using the victim business’s identity. And often by the time a business owner ever finds out about it, the thieves are long gone and they are left to face some very awkward questions. In one case, a victim company found that an imposter company had opened an office in the very same building so they could use an almost identical address to fool banks and vendors.
Here are some steps you can take to minimize the risks and spot an imposter:
- Check your state business filings every few months to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized changes – like new officers or a new legal address.
- Check your business credit report. You can do it with any of the three main credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and Transunion- and also with Dun and Bradstreet.
- Do regular internet searches for your company name and domain. Thieves will often register identical companies in other states, or register a similarly-spelled domain that may look like yours.
- Search for your own name and those of any other officers or executives, because thieves may be using those names to promote the cloned company.
- Protect your Employer Identification Number, or EIN, to minimize the risk thieves will get access to it.
- If your state allows it, sign up for alerts for any changes to your business filings.
Business identity theft is a growing problem and difficult to spot and stop. Constant vigilance is your business bet – like every other part of your business and website security program.
Contact SiteLock today to learn why website security is a crucial part of protecting your business.