Identify Theft – What should small business owners do to protect themselves?
By Casey Cox, CPA, IT Support Specialist
Protecting your social security number may not be the only number to safeguard if you run a business. Your company may have an Employee Identification Number (EIN), which is the business version of a social security number and used to identify it. An EIN is needed to open bank accounts or take out credit, but it doesn't have the same protections that an individual's social security number benefits from. Theft of EINs allows fraudsters to potentially open up lines of credit in the company's name or empty bank accounts.
The steps to protecting your business's EIN are the same as protecting any personal information we discussed previously in the series, with a few exceptions.
- First, much of the personal information of corporations and LLCs is easily searched for on the Secretary of State website, including addresses and names of officers. Keep filing document information at a minimum. If your state does not require disclosure of members' names, do not provide them.
- Verify the accuracy of your business on the Secretary of State website. Fraudsters can easily change your business address or other details by filing a form online. The State accepts these requests in good faith, so it is essential that you check company information on a regular basis.
- Don't provide sensitive information about your company on your website or any other public place. While it is important to provide information to customers, limit details when possible. Fraudsters can accumulate data across the web, and they may eventually gather enough information to pose as an agent of your company.
- Obtain a commercial credit report for your business on an annual basis. This will help you to spot any unauthorized activity.