What is business identity theft?
According to a recent report by the research firm Javelin Strategy & Research, identity theft affected more than 8 million people in 2010. Although identity theft impacts consumers around the world and in Ohio, it no longer applies to just consumers. Business identity theft (also known as corporate or commercial identity theft) is a new development in the criminal enterprise of identity theft.
Business identity theft—also referred to as corporate or commercial identity theft—occurs when a business's identity is used to transact business and establish lines of credit with banks and/or vendors. This could include establishing temporary office space and/or merchant accounts in a company's name, or ordering merchandise or services with stolen credit card information. Like consumer identity theft, business identity theft can result in potentially ruinous consequences for the victimized business as well as those individuals associated with the business.
What is the Ohio Secretary of State’s office doing to help protect your business entity from business identity theft?
The Ohio Secretary of State’s office provides a free, easy-to-use filing notification system that allows businesses to track any changes and updates to business filings with our office. Businesses or individuals need only submit an email address and business charter, registration or license number for each filing, which can be found through a simple online business search (click here to search the Secretary of State's Business Entity Database). Please note that if in addition to a regular business filing a company also a registered trademark or service mark, for example, businesses will need to know the numbers for each of those filings as well. Once subscribed to our service, an email will be sent automatically the day after any document is filed. The email will serve as notification of all changes to that business record.
What can a business do to prevent and detect business identity theft?
Take the following initial steps to protect your business from business identity theft:
- Subscribe to the Secretary of State’s filing notification system.
- Periodically check your business information on the Secretary of State’s website.
- Obtain a commercial credit report for your business.
- Sign up for electronic notifications with your bank, other creditors, and service providers.
- Monitor accounts and bills and immediately report any suspicious activity to the originating company.
- Protect your EIN (employer identification number), account numbers, and other personal information.
- Create and follow a policy for carrying, using, and reporting a lost or stolen business credit card.
- Inventory documents you maintain.
- Store only those documents you must keep, and keep them in a safe and secure location.
- If you plan to discard documents, shred them using a cross cut or “confetti” shredder.
- Do not share any sensitive information in emails or on any web based service.
What do you do if you believe your business is a victim of business identity theft?
If you believe your business is a victim of business identity theft, you should immediately take the following steps:
- Report the theft to your local law enforcement agency.
- Contact banks or credit providers and report the theft.
- Contact the largest credit reporting agencies and speak with the Fraud Department to report the crime and view your business credit report.
- Place a fraud alert on your business accounts.
- Contact creditors where fraudulent accounts were opened, and request copies of all documentation used to open or access the accounts.
- Visit the National Business Identity Theft Resource, Better Business Bureau or Federal Trade Commission Websites for more resources to protect against business identity theft.