The Dangers of Identity Theft

Better Business Bureau warns that the problem poses a serious threat to both businesses and consumers.

By: Tracy Bracy

With the recent news stories about retailers having their records compromised by hackers, Americans have been focused on the dangers of identity theft. Tax-related identity theft was the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2014, while the number of complaints from consumers about criminals impersonating IRS officials was nearly 24 times more than in 2013, according to FTC statistics.

Identity theft isn’t just something that happens to consumers, however. Increasingly, criminals are targeting businesses for ID theft, and Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal and Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin is warning businesses to be on guard for signs of having their name stolen.

Criminals look for ways to steal the identity of a legitimate business by gaining access to its bank accounts, credit cards and other sensitive company information. The criminals can then secure lines of credit with banks and retailers at the expense of the victim. BBB has the following advice to protect your company against identity theft:

» Protect your business bank accounts. Review your commercial banking agreements to learn about your protections and reporting requirements. Consider using a two-person authorization or other arrangements with your bank to protect against fraudulent wire transactions. Beware of phishing scams, and monitor your bank account frequently.

» Protect your business identifying information. Guard your employer identification number (EIN) and tax identification number (TIN) the way you would your own Social Security number. Don’t give them out unless required, and shred old documents with business ID information in them.

» Protect and monitor your state business registration information. Regularly review your information with the Secretary of State to make sure your information hasn’t been changed or updated without authorization.

» Protect and monitor your business credit card, supplier and trade accounts. Keep an inventory of accounts and key contact information. Review and reconcile account statements as soon as they are received, and immediately alert your credit card company if you find fraudulent activity.

» Protect and monitor your business credit file. Regularly review your business credit reports with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Keep personal and business finances separate, and consider placing a credit security freeze on your personal credit file to make it harder for thieves to open new credit accounts in your name.

» Protect your business computers and networks. Restrict use of your business computers to only business activities, install anti-virus software and keep it updated and secure your company’s wireless network.

 

For more information about ways to prevent business identity theft and resources for dealing with the problem if it happens to your company, visit
www.businessidtheft.org, a website operated by the Identity Theft Protection Association and the National Association of Secretaries of State.

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