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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

State Officials Move To Fight Growing Business Identity Theft

A growing number of businesses — large and small — are having their corporate identities stolen, and the consequences can be devastating, according to experts who spoke at a recent Forum held by the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Scammers are using a variety of methods, including spyware, phishing and other internet schemes as well as old-fashioned “dumpster diving” to obtain the information they need to coopt a business’ identity. They then loot the company’s bank accounts or take out credit cards and other lines of credit in the company’s name.

Cases of business identity theft have been reported in at least 22 states, according to Dunn & Bradstreet, a provider of business credit information, and the number is growing. Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler said there have been 85 reported cases of business identity theft in his state at an average cost of $40,000 per business.

While larger businesses might have the resources to survive such incidents, smaller businesses such as photocopy shops, concierge services and other operations run by Notary entrepreneurs can be devastated.

The extent of the problem is hard to quantify because there is no central clearinghouse for complaints, and many businesses simply write off losses. However, the problem has become large enough that NASS is forming a national Task Force to coordinate efforts at combating the problem and sponsored the invitation-only Forum of government and industry leaders to discuss the issue.

NASS officials offer a number of tips to prevent being victimized by identity theft:
  • Regularly check your business filings with your local or state government regulator.
  • Sign up for email notifications of changes to your business filings or financial service providers.
  • Closely monitor all your business accounts for suspicious activity.

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