How can you avoid Business Identity Theft?
As the economy shrinks businesses as well as criminals look for ways to make money, this could cause you to need to look at ways to protect your business, not just the physical location, but your brand, name, and even your financial accounts.
There are businesses out there, possibly your competitors, that would use your name with their contact information to drive more traffic to their company, in Kenosha we have 2 Southport’s, one is Mechanical, the other is Heating and Air Conditioning, their logo’s are different, even the color scheme of their logo’s are different, but there is a chance that one of the companies is getting business due to the similar name, I don’t know if it has happened but this is a case where confusion rather than true Identity Theft.
When a business competitor uses your logo and even your web designs to portray them as your business that is Identity Theft. This is really more common that most people realize.
Others like I referenced yesterday with Icon and Herbalife is another type of Identity theft, where a business uses your good name to lure others to them to be able to further their own pocketbook.
Most small businesses are really most at risk because they are directly linked to a business owners Social Security number, if the owner loses this number his or her business could suffer greatly, with banks, as well as other ways that the number can be used. Using a Federal and/or State EIN, Employer Identification Number could put a barrier between the owner’s finances and the business assets; as well it is a good way to separate the owner’s assets from the Business assets in case of future growth for the company.
Prior to the post office sending letters when you or your business moves its location or mail service this was a common scam, some fraudsters will still attempt, since you can change the location for no charge, and by the time you receive the letter stating that your information has been changed your financial records along with other correspondence will have gone to the fraudster, The post office for the most part has stepped up its vigilance to not allow this to happen, but you need to pay attention to any and all mail you get from the post office or creditors.
You need to be vigilant about what your credit statements say as well as any unauthorized charges, this is good for individuals as well as businesses, but most businesses have gotten in the poor habit of rubber stamping most charges, This is the biggest mistake they can make, someone in your company needs to be able to answer for how and why the charges are on the statement.
There are a few things that a business can do to prevent Theft from the business;
• Shredding. Shred everything. Keep shredders by trash cans in the office and at home. Make certain that all records, credit cards, and any document with any personal information (SSN, addresses, names, birthdates, etc.) go into the shredder. Or collect all shred materials for a company to shred for you, but make sure you get documentation that it was shredded.
• Protect your electronic information. You can purchase security software that will maintain firewalls, encrypt your information, and protect your e-mail accounts.
• Regularly check for “holes” in any websites connected to your business. Information can leak through security holes, exposing your business to identity theft.
• Protect or eliminate your paper information. Keep files away from the public and accessible only to employees on a need-to-know basis. Because paper is more vulnerable than its electronic counterparts, store files in computers and switch to online baking, payroll and bill pay. According to a study by Javelin Strategy and Research, making this switch can save can consumers and businesses about $4.8 billion and prevent more than one million cases of identity theft each year.
Will this stop all Identity Theft of a business? No but it is a start.
In the coming days and weeks I will present more cases as well as prevention methods for Businesses as well as persons in the news for Fraud.
If you would like something looked at for further coverage, feel free to contact me directly Deborah@dlbandassociates.com or better yet leave a comment and I will gladly respond to that as well.