Increases in Business Identity Theft

January 14, 2014

Milwaukee, Wis. – The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin (BBB) is warning businesses to be on guard for signs of having their business’ name used in an identity theft scheme.

A Beloit business reported to the BBB that 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 purportedly using the business name when making threatening phone calls to consumers, seeking immediate payment.

The business, which does computer service and repair, informed the BBB that it 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.

The business owner told the 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.”

The owner, who has trademarked his business name, filed complaints with Beloit police and with the FBI’s cybercrime division, wrote to the website host of the fake website in an effort to have it shut down, and also put a “scam alert” on his own site.

A common way scammers hijack business names is with scam websites. Scammers use a business’ URL and existing site to lend credibility to their schemes. In some cases, such as in this case, scammers use a different suffix. For example, instead of “.com” they will use the identical name and “.net.”

“Unfortunately, we have been seeing this type of crime increasing both locally and nationally,” says Ran Hoth, CEO/president of the BBB Serving Wisconsin.  “In many cases, a company doesn’t even know that its good name is being used to defraud until after the con artist has successfully swindled someone.”

While it is difficult to detect when your name has been hijacked, the BBB suggests that you be vigilant. Regularly review your company’s name and address on the Internet to look for any sites or activity using your name that have not been created by you.

The BBB also offers the following signs to look out for:

  • You receive a request to verify orders you didn’t place.
  • You receive phone calls from someone trying to verify an address for your business that is not associated with your company or that you cannot confirm.
  • You receive invoices for storage, shipping or other services that you did not place. Closely monitor all invoices and question any that are not familiar.