Corporate Identity Theft
A few weeks ago we looked at personal identity theft and resources to help protect your identity. But did you know businesses are just as vulnerable to identity theft?
All business entities in the state of Florida must register with the Florida Division of Corporations. That’s the official records warehouse for all business records. Some of the information that is available to the general public is the company’s name, address and address (es) of its owners or directors. Perhaps even more alarming, is the company’s Federal Employer Identification number (FEIN), which uniquely identifies a business is public information with just the click of a mouse.
Identity thieves are availing themselves to this information and using it to open bank accounts, redirect the company’s mail to a new address, or obtaining lines of credit. The thieves are using stolen business FEIN’s to report fake wage and withholding in tax fraud and tax identity scams.
Identity thieves are targeting businesses of all sizes because businesses have larger bank account balances and have higher credit limits. But the main reason is due to the minimal security, oversight and the ease in which the information is available.
As of now, the Florida Division of Corporations (www.sunbiz.org) does not password protect the information they keep on file and can’t prevent unauthorized individuals from going online and changing any of the information that is currently on file.
So what can you do to protect this valuable information?
If you’ve filed with the Division of Corporations you should periodically check to make sure there haven’t been any unauthorized changes. Once at Sunbiz, you can click on search our records, inquire by name and enter your business name. All the company’s current information will be pulled up. You should check it carefully and make sure the information is correct.
Protect your business bank account from fraud by implementing security and authentication controls to prevent unauthorized wire transfers and electronic transactions. Be more diligent in reconciling your business accounts daily.
Regularly review your business credit report(s). You can check the business credit website for Dunn & Bradstreet, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion or contact their toll free number for assistance.
You can protect your business computers and networks by installing anti-virus, spyware or internet security software. You may also want to consider installing firewall software.
These are just a few simple steps to help deter thieves from stealing your business information. They may seem time consuming; however, a little extra time spent now may save you valuable time and money in the long run.
For more information visit the National Association of Secretaries of State, www.nass.org
Written by Hope Gold