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Is someone out there pretending to represent your business to make money? Don’t laugh. It happens. Business identity theft is a growing concern for many companies across the US. According to a recent study by Dun & Bradstreet, business identity theft, also called commercial or corporate identity theft, was up 46 percent in 2017.
The CEO, Mary Ellen Seale, of The National Cybersecurity Society (NCSS) said, “Small business identity theft – stealing a business’s identity to commit fraud, is big business for identity thieves.” However, too few businesses, especially smaller businesses, are aware of the issue. In 2018, the NCSS published “Business Identity Theft in the US” to help publicize the problem, and to provide guidance on how companies can help protect themselves.
Corporate identity theft is not just a problem for large corporations or companies operating in a particular industry. It is a crime which can affect any-sized business from tiny Mom and Pop shops on Main St. USA to multinational companies who are involved in any commerce:
Criminals who steal the identities of businesses have a wide range of methods ranging from very simplistic to highly sophisticated. Many lower level identity thieves focus on email phishing scams which target employees of the company in an attempt to gain confidential information such as database passwords or HR records. Other simple scams use spoofed email accounts of company executives to trick vendors and clients of a company into believing they are communicating with someone from the company. Slightly more advanced scams can include setting up an unsecured WiFi network in near a company in hopes that employees will use it to conduct business and then stealing the data.
More sophisticated scams can include dozens of people, building fake websites, using shelf companies, social engineering and even renting office space at the same location as the targeted company. The goal of these higher level scams is typically to create a plausible “Proof of Right” which the thieves can then use to secure fraudulent loans, masquerade as the company in a business deal, or even sell company assets.
While there is no way to protect your company completely from identity theft, you can make it harder for cybercriminals by maintaining proper data protection procedures.