If you’re a business owner, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of business identity theft. This type of identity theft occurs when someone uses another business’s name, address or other identifying information to obtain credit, goods or services in the business’s name. It can have devastating consequences for your business, so it’s important to be vigilant in spotting the signs. Here are 5 warning signs of business identity theft that every business owner should know:
- Unexpected Changes in Business Accounts or Activity. Unusual activity or changes in your business accounts may be a sign that someone has stolen the your business’s information and is using it to commit fraud.
- Strange Emails or Communications From Suppliers, Customers or Partners. If you suddenly start receiving strange emails or communications from your suppliers, customers, or partners, it may be a sign that someone has compromised your business’s information.
- Suspicious Charges on Business Accounts. If there are unexplained or suspicious charges on your business accounts, it may be a sign of identity theft.
- Unexpected Changes in Business Credit Reports. If you notice any unexpected changes in your business’s credit reports, it may be a sign that someone has stolen your business’s information. They could also use it to apply for credit in the business’s name.
- Sudden decrease in available credit from financial institutions. This is a sign that someone has accessed your business credit report. With this information, they may try to get new lines of credit in your business name.
Immediate Action Steps Following Business Identity Theft
If you think someone has stolen your business identity, the first thing you should do is contact your financial institution(s) and credit bureau(s) to report the fraud. You’ll need to contact the three major business credit reporting agencies, Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and Equifax, by either phone or online. Ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit file to prevent criminals from opening new accounts in your businesses’ name.
Remember that business identity theft is a crime and you should report it to the proper authorities. Contact local law enforcement to file a report. This is an important step to help with the investigation as well as the protection of your business going forward. You will also want to contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint.
Steps to Recovery Following Business Identity Theft
Once you have taken the immediate action steps and reported the business identity theft, your next focus should be on recovery. This may include working with your financial institution(s) to resolve any fraudulent charges as well as repairing any damage to your business’s credit reports. You should also put safeguards in place to protect your business information in the future. For example, you should implement strong security measures and monitor your accounts regularly.
Here are a few tips to help you secure your business from criminals:
- Keep your business information safe and secure. This includes things like your business name, address, contact information and tax ID number. Be careful about who you share this information with and make sure it is stored securely. Also, if you dispose of any documents with this information on them, shred them first.
- Monitor your business accounts closely. Regularly review your financial statements and look for any suspicious activity. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, contact your bank or credit card company immediately.
- Protect your online information. Make sure your website and all online accounts are protected with strong passwords as well as authentication measures. In addition, be cautious about phishing scams and other attempts to gain access to your sensitive information.
- Keep all software up to date. Hackers often exploit vulnerabilities in old software versions to gain access to systems. By keeping software up to date, organizations can close these security holes.
- Back up your data regularly. Store your backups offline, so they can’t be encrypted by ransomware.
- Don’t open email attachments or click on links from unknown senders.
- Don’t download software and apps from untrustworthy websites. Only download software from websites you trust.
- Use a security suite that includes anti-malware protection. A security suite can protect your computer from ransomware and other malware.
- If you have the budget, consider investing in cybersecurity training for your employees to educate them about threats, and what they can do to help protect themselves and the business from cyber attacks.
- Instruct your employees to report anything suspicious to you or their supervisor.
- Have a plan in place for what to do in the event of identity theft, so you can quickly contain the damage and minimize the impact on your business.
If you’re a business owner, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of business identity theft. This type of identity theft can have devastating consequences for your business, so it’s important to be vigilant in spotting the signs and acting quickly to report the crime to the proper authorities. Safeguard yourself and your business from identity theft by increasing your cybersecurity posture and implementing controls for better security practices in your organization.