Published on March 3, 2014
Business Identity Theft Protect Your Business Credit
Credit reports are a staple of modern commerce and credit decision making, and millions of businesses rely on them every day. Consumers have credit reports; and, because businesses regularly extend credit to each other, businesses have credit reports as well. However, while there are some similarities, there are two critical differences between business credit reports and consumer credit reports that business identity thieves can use to their advantage.
Unlike consumer credit reports, business credit reports are available to virtually anyone
Consumer credit reports contain a significant amount of confidential and sensitive information about the subject of the report that could be misused. Because of this, access to consumer credit reports is restricted to businesses with a permissible business need, companies with whom the consumer has applied for credit, and companies to whom the consumer grants permission. Business credit reports also contain a significant amount of information about the business that can potentially be misused. However, because business credit reports are intended to promote and foster commerce and aid in risk management decision processes between businesses, a business credit report is readily available and can be purchased by virtually anyone.
Unlike consumer credit reports, a business credit report is selfreported by the business
Additional information may also be obtained and incorporated into the report from public records and third parties, such as other companies with which the business has credit accounts. Depending upon the type and source of the report, a business credit report may also contain owner and principal information, financial statements, trade information, public filings, operations and facility information, SIC/SAIC codes, etc. All of this is valuable background information for thieves seeking to target a company for business identity theft
Because a large amount of the information is selfreported, there is a potential for criminals to gain access to and manipulate the file, changing the information of their target company in order to deceive creditors or lenders as part of their business identity theft scheme. Business registration information that is included in the report is generally obtained and verified through the appropriate Secretary of State. Therefore, in some cases a criminal's first step is to attempt to fraudulently change the state business registration records, and then manipulate the business credit report.
Fake Business Credit Applications Business credit applications are commonplace and in many businesses would not raise a red flag, particularly if they appear to originate from a recognized source such as a credit card company, major supplier, or lender. A new line of credit or extended payment terms can be very appealing to a cash-strapped business.
False Business Financial Reports Business identity thieves can manipulate business financial reports, or easily fabricate such reports altogether, in order to deceive prospective creditors and lenders by making the business appear better off than it may be. When combined with other real or falsified business credentials, or proof of right, false financial reports are used to add to the appearance of legitimacy and financial capacity as part of a business identity theft scheme intended to fraudulently obtain loans or lines of credit in the business' name.
Phishing Scams Phishing email scams are designed to trick you, or your employees, into divulging confidential personal and business account information (i.e. SSN, EIN, account number, user name, password, etc.) The IRS, government agencies, and legitimate financial institutions do not request you to provide or "verify" this information through email communications. If you or your employees receive such an email, notify your bank's fraud department. Do not respond to the email, and do not click on any links or open any attachments in the email as doing so can connect you to a fraudulent website and/or cause spyware to be installed on your computer.
Popular in Business ID Theft Schemes Fraudulent Business Filings Address Mirroring Virtual Services and Technology Shelf Corporations and Trade Rings Use of Owner / Officer Identity Manipulation of Business Records Cyber Crime Internet Black Market Other Schemes to Defraud
Advocate Tip #1 Even a closed business can be reopened by paying a nominal fee, without your consent. Your good business name can be used by crooks to lure previous customers and trick new ones into providing credit cards, products and services they have no intention to repay. If you suspect someone may be using your companies name, contact the Secretary of State and check the status of that business. If you determine fraud has occurred, file a police report
Advocate Tip #2 A consumers good name and credit can also be used by identity thieves to create business credit files or take out loans in fake business names Checking their own credit files may show early signs of fraud has occurred. Place fraud alerts, if suspicious Monitor public records, if suspicious If you see an unknown company or business looking at your credit file. Contact them immediately! Inquiries usually drop off after 10-15 business days, work fast to minimize exposure to identity theft.
Advocate Tip #3 Most banks offer "zero-fraud liability" protection to their consumer banking customers. Normally this services is not available to businesses. Ask your bank about coverage. Ask about insurance coverage for Data Breach, Fraud and Identity Theft. Check with your bank regarding liability on MasterCard / Visa credit and debit cards for small businesses.
Business Credit Bureaus Dun & Bradstreet Toll free: 1-800-234-3867 Equifax Toll free: 1-800-525-6285 Experian Toll free: 1-888-397-3742 TransUnion Toll free: 1-800-680-7289
Fact Only 28% of small businesses provide training to employees about Internet safety and security. * Source: 2012 National Small Business Study, National Cyber Security Alliance, Symantec, & JZ Analytics.
Train your employees (and yourself) Protecting your business and the sensitive information of your business, your customers, and employees is the responsibility of everyone in your organization. Properly trained employees understand the risks and know how to recognize and stop fraud and information security risks before it impacts your business.
Online and Public Presence Export and delete all information from web applications associated with expiring domain names Use Google Alerts or a similar service to monitor the Internet Whois Database and domain privacy services Be alert for impostors on the web and in the phone book
Positive Pay Most U.S commercial banks offer Positive Pay services which can significantly reduce business check fraud losses. Using Positive Pay, when you write business checks, you provide your bank with a list of check numbers and dollar amounts. Your bank compares any checks received for payment against your list. If a check doesn't match, it is identified as an "exception" and is not paid.
Resources Dun & Bradstreet: Sample Credit Report NASS Business Identity Theft Task Force Tax Information For Businesses Secretary of State website Better Business Bureau® NAID BBB EU Safe Harbor Program Glossary by Kroll’s Fraud Solutions
Company names mentioned herein are the property of, and may be trademarks of, their respective owners and are for educational purposes only. Special Thanks to BusinessIDTheft.org, BBB Compiled and designed by Mark Fullbright , Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist™ (CITRMS) as a free service for businesses to protect themselves and reduce their exposure to identity theft. Stay Safe, Stay Secure
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