Tips for Detecting and Preventing Business Identity Theft
It has widely publicized that criminals hacked into Equifax’s databases and stole the social security numbers, birth dates, addresses driver’s license numbers of approximately 143 million individuals in the United States. Many of the 143 million individuals are also business owners. There are about 28 million small businesses in the United States and the vast majority of them (99%) are dependent on credit to operate and support families all across this country. The creditworthiness of these small businesses dependent on the creditworthiness of individual owners. Thus, business identity theft strikes at the very heart of the American dream.
Business identity thieves can use stolen business information to establish lines of credit with banks or retailers, which they then use to make purchases, such as 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 theft can destroy the victim’s business. The damage to the victim’s credit history can lead to denial of credit, which can lead to operational problems. To try to avoid this nightmare scenario, consider these tips put out by the state of Colorado:
Create a Business Protection Plan
A business plan is a critical component of operating and running a successful business. An important, and often overlooked, aspect of a business plan is a security strategy. It is helpful to create a business protection plan that includes steps to prevent and deal with identity theft.
Protect Your Business Records and Information
Maintain only those records that are necessary to run or operate your business and shred those records that are not necessary. Take an inventory of the documents that you maintain. The inventory will help you determine your exposure to risk and to then manage that risk.
Keep the records you don’t shred in a secure location. To the extent possible, limit the amount of mail and paper with financial information printed on it to reduce the chance of criminals stealing it. Opt for electronic statements for bank accounts, credit cards, and bills whenever possible. Never provide an employer identification number (EIN), social security number, financial information, or personal information to anyone unless you have initiated the contact and have confirmed the requesting business or the person's identity.
If a credit or debit card is lost or stolen, cancel the card immediately. Also, if a check is not processed in a reasonable amount of time, contact the payee and consider canceling the check.
Finally, if you reach the point of moving on or retiring from your business and dissolve your business, contact the credit reporting bureaus to notify them that you are closing your business and will no longer be applying for credit.
Protect Your Business Online
Do not use email or the internet to share financial documents, sensitive personal information, or account numbers. If you must provide this sensitive information over a website, ensure that the site is secure. A secure website is indicated with “https” in the website’s URL.
Monitor your business’s credit report and, if possible, sign up for a credit monitoring service. 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.
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THE DOSS FIRM, LLC
36 Trammell Street
Marietta, Georgia 30064
(770) 578-1314 (T)
(770) 578-1302 (F)