Last month (May 28) we covered some of the tricks and scams surrounding business identify theft through bank accounts, wire transfers and phishing. This month we’ll look at how to protect your business information and prevent identity theft and fraud.
Lock Up the Checkbook
If a thief broke into your office or home, could they steal your checkbook, checking account supplies and other business identifiers, account numbers, etc.? These should be under lock and key. If your business uses lots of paper checks, be sure they are high security grade checks able to thwart fraud schemes like phony payroll checks or altered payee or amounts. Treat your business EIN like you would your Social Security number. Only provide an EIN when disclosure is required, and never on unsolicited business credit applications. Duplicate all your business identifiers and keep the originals and copies in a safe, secure location inaccessible by unauthorized personnel. Shred any old documents that might contain business license number, registrations, EIN/TIN, account number, and so on. Buying a business shredder? Look for cross-cut, confetti cut, or diamond cut.
Enroll & Review
So far, Ohio state agencies don’t offer email alerts, but they do want you to report fraud at (800) 757-6091 or online. However most banks do and we suggest that you enroll in email alerts at your bank. These services can provide early warning of potential fraud. Regularly review your business registration information online (for both active and closed businesses). In Ohio, go here to create an account or log in to your current account. You should also periodically check any past businesses that you may have closed to be sure that they have not been fraudulently reinstated. Business identity thefts have been known to target companies classified as inactive, so that’s another incentive to keep your business filings currents.
Check your business credit report regularly from each of the three top providers and look for suspicious activity. These same organizations offer fee-based services to do this for you.
Dun & Bradstreet
Watch Like a Hawk
Protect and monitor your business credit card and your trade accounts, and reconcile account statements as soon as they are received. If you see something fishy, promptly contact the creditor. Thieves commonly make small purchases like uneven amounts between $3 and $8, then wait to see if it’s noticed before making a larger purchase. Phone numbers to report credit card fraud are on statements or on the back of cards, but it helps to keep them handy in file or drawer as time is of the essence in credit card fraud.
In our next and final installment on small business identity theft, we cover three additional caveats—and preventative measures—to safeguard your business’s financial identity.