What are you doing to help ensure that your business identity is not stolen? If this is not a scenario you have given much thought to, you could be an easy target.

Dun & Bradstreet estimated in June 2020 that business identity theft had spiked by as much as 258 percent since the beginning of the year, with the majority of the schemes being specifically focused on relief and recovery funding.1

"For example, the Paycheck Protection Program in the U.S., under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), prioritized millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and other expenses," the firm wrote at the time. "While the vast majority of relief funding has been channeled to upstanding small businesses in need, we have also observed a small number of bad actors who have falsified records to apply for and attempt to gain access to those crucial government dollars."

It is not uncommon for such bad actors to prey upon people in times of crisis or following disasters. As we all continue to move forward in the age of COVID-19, it is as important as ever that businesses learn how to protect themselves. These tips may help make a positive start:

1. Safeguard your EIN

Control access to your Employer Identification Number (EIN) so bad actors can't use it to steal your business identity.

As BusinessIDTheft.org notes, "There are many circumstances under which the business EIN must be provided, such as business bank accounts, tax and wage reporting, W-9 forms, etc.  However, be aware that thieves can commit numerous business identity theft fraud schemes, tax fraud schemes, and fraudulently access or open many types of business accounts with only your business name, address, and EIN."4

It's wise to treat your EIN the same way you would your own Social Security number. Only provide it in instances like those listed above.

2. Keep an eye on business credit

Monitor your business credit regularly. Check your credit report for inaccuracies or suspicious activity and report it immediately if you find anything. Do the same with your personal credit report, as criminals may use your identity as a business owner to commit business identity fraud, not to mention identity theft in general.

3. Help make your business credit card more secure

Several options are available to help protect your credit card purchases, including zero liability, purchase security and extended protection, card alerts, mobile card fraud alerts, and spending restrictions by merchant or category, which can help prevent misuse.2

4. Tighten your information security practices

Taking measures to make your data and network are more secure has been an ever-changing challenge for businesses, and doubly so for small businesses with limited resources. Add a worldwide pandemic with fraudsters looking to capitalize and new remote working environments and/or IT infrastructure changes, and the dangers can be exacerbated.

Take the proper precautions and consult with an expert if you don't have one on staff. Discuss cybersecurity concerns with employees and implement policies that everyone is required to adhere to, even if they’re working from home, and especially if they are working remotely in locations where they might be connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks.3

5. Regularly check public records of your business

In addition to regularly checking your credit, you should also monitor your records. In its report, Dun & Bradstreet suggests proactively updating your live business identity to keep info up to date and enable you to validate information cited in an account. For example, they recommend looking for changes, inaccuracies, or missing informantion related to business name, address, phone number, ownership, and website. The same goes for state, county, and city records, licenses, etc.

6. Help protect your bank accounts

Help keep your business bank accounts safe from fraud. BusinessIDTheft.org says to do this by: enacting security and authentication controls to protect against fraudulent wire transfers and electronic transactions; monitoring accounts daily; using common sense security practices while accessing your accounts online, such as not doing so on a public Wi-Fi hotspot; being wary of phishing scams; and keeping account supplies, such as checks, deposit slips, and endorsement stamps in a safe place.4

7. Use Positive Pay Advantage

With Nevada State Bank, you can help protect your accounts from check fraud using Positive Pay Advantage, which allows you to send a check file every time you issue checks, You enter your checks into the system online so Nevada State Bank can match your issues against checks presented for payment. Read more about the features and benefits of Positive Pay Advantage here.

The main takeaway is that as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact businesses, there will likely be more and more cases of criminals trying to steal business identities. It is time to be extra vigilant to help keep yours safe.

1. https://www.dnb.com/perspectives/small-business/prevent-business-fraud-during-covid19.html

2. Click here to view some of the security options available for Nevada State Bank cards.

3. Click here for a NevadaSmallBusiness article on cybersecurity concerns in the work-from-home environment.

4. http://www.businessidtheft.org/Prevention/tabid/87/Default.aspx

 

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank. Nevada State Bank is a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC