Protecting your small business from identity theft
Everyone in the country should know what identity theft is by now. Warnings about identity theft emblazon billboards. Commercials for security devices flood the radio and television waves. But if that is how you heard about identity theft, then you are probably under a misconception: that it is a crime that only targets consumers. In fact, identity thefts of larger businesses, and especially small businesses, are on the rise. Let’s take a look at why identity theft of small businesses is growing and how a small business can protect against it.
Growth of small business identity theft
This is a growing area of crime for individual criminals, but also for small street gangs and organized crime units. The U.S. Department of Justice has reported that identity theft has become the #1 for profit crime in America. Small business identity theft is a large part of that growth for various reasons.
Why is small business identity theft growing?
Stealing the identity of a small business can have huge potential gains for criminals for some of the following reasons:
- Businesses have larger bank accounts: more money for the identity thieves to steal
- Easy credit: a small business can often get a line of credit approved without jumping through the hoops and paperwork that an individual has to. This makes it easier for thieves to steal the identity and open up thousands of dollars on a credit line
- Larger purchases made with less scrutiny: again, it is routine for a business to make large purchases, so they are not scrutinized harshly when they do. This means more dollars to an identity thief
Now that we can see some of the reasons that small businesses are having their identities stolen, let’s look at what you can do to protect against it.
Protecting against identity theft
- Protect your Employer Identification Number and Social Security Number. These two numbers can allow an identity thief to easily act as if they are your business. By being cautious of who sees these numbers you can help prevent their theft.
- Store personal records outside of the workplace to limit who has access to them
- Install anti-virus computer software to protect your business’ computers from being hacked
- Ensure a website is secure before transferring sensitive information over it
- Shred your documents so that thieves cannot get your account numbers by going through your trash
- Frequently monitor all of your accounts and bills so that you can notice changes that may occur
- Report any suspicious changes to your accounts as soon as possible
Identity theft is not just a consumer problem; thieves also target small businesses. It is a growing criminal enterprise because small businesses have deeper pockets and easier credit availability than individual consumers. To protect your small business from identity thefts monitor your accounts and keep your sensitive information as private as possible. And remember, if you are the victim of identity theft; report it as soon as possible.
 What is Business Identity Theft, Business Identity Theft – Small Business Security, Bank of the West (2013) https://www.bankofthewest.com/security-center-small-business/fraud-center/business-identity-theft.html
 What is Business Identity Theft: The rise in business identity theft puts your business at serious risk, BusinessIDTheft.org (2010) http://businessidtheft.org/Education/WhyBusinessIDTheft/tabid/85/Default.aspx