BBB Warns of Rise in Business Identity Theft

February 03, 2014

Local Better Business Bureaus and law enforcement officials across the country have noticed an uptick in the use of legitimate business names in devious plots, many to extort money from consumers. Even BBB serving Greater Maryland had two phone lines recently ‘spoofed’ in an Internet dialer attack, known as vishing, that overwhelmed an out-of-state medical office during off-hours.

A Wisconsin business reported it has been a victim of a “name hijacking” after learning that a website had been created, nearly identical to its own website. The perpetrators behind the fraudulent website were allegedly using the business name when making threatening phone calls to consumers, seeking immediate payment.

The business, which does computer service and repair, had received dozens of calls from consumers throughout the U.S. reporting they received a phone call stating they had committed a crime and needed to make immediate payment or face confiscation of their personal computer.

No known reports of payment have been made so far. But the business owner told BBB, “I’ve spent a lot of time and hard work creating an ethical, well-established and reputable business. I don’t want something like this to compromise all that I’ve built.”

In other cases reported to BBB, the names of business executives or similar sounding ones have been soiled by the thieves. During the BBB investigation of a time share reseller scam with numerous Maryland victims last summer, we found that the fraudsters had adopted business names, staff names and old addresses of three legitimate real estate firms in an effort to dupe consumers.

BBB Tips for Victims of Business ID Theft

  • Report suspicious activity to local law enforcement, the FBI’s cybercrime division and BBB. 
  • Shut down a deceptive website. Once identified and documented that a site trades on your business name, notify the web host to shut it down. Host information is available with a search of the web address. 
  • Create a response policy. As part of your public response consider posting a warning on your company website.