Identity Crisis Targets Businesses

1/25/2012

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Identity theft crimes are not limited to individuals; businesses can also become victims. Better Business Bureau warns of a recent surge in business identity theft.

"Impostors hijack and exploit information from legitimate organizations to swindle unsuspecting consumers," said Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington.

Copycats often design similar-looking websites, advertisements and solicitations featuring real business names, logos and contact information to cheat consumers under false guise—and potentially ruin other businesses' reputations.

Business victims usually detect stolen identities when confronted by customers regarding false solicitations, fake websites, phishing emails, fraudulent charges or check cashing schemes. Additionally, some receive delivery, billing and customer service complaints stemming from the identity theft.

Stolen identity clues include: unusual product or service requests; unfamiliar advertisements posted in directories or online; and unwarranted complaint reports filed by unknown customers. Even Better Business Bureau discovered a series of fake BBB.org emails after being alerted by businesses and consumers.

If targeted, minimize the negative effects of business identity theft:

Claim the name and monitor business mentions. Make sure licensing and registration records are up-to-date with current contact details. Start Web alerts to track keywords—such as business names, addresses or phone numbers—to locate unauthorized online listings. If fake advertisements or websites are found, contact advertisers and site publishers to have them taken down or removed immediately.

Track inquiries and complaints. If strange reports come in, document the details.

Alert consumers. Promptly notify current customers about frauds; explain how it is being handled and include contact information in case questions arise. If widespread, publicize the issue through company websites, social media profiles, press releases and emails.

Report the crime. Inform local police, the Federal Trade Commission and the state Attorney General about the offense to help protect consumers and assist in other business identity theft investigations. Contact Better Business Bureau to ensure complaints are not miscategorized and request custom "stolen identity" text in BBB Business Reviews.

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