Since the rise of the internet, identity theft has been a growing problem in the United States, affecting both consumers and business owners alike. Business owners are more profitable for identity thieves, due to the potential to hack into larger credit lines, bank balances, and reserve accounts, along with the fact that less oversight of business accounts (compared to consumer accounts) means that it’s easier for hackers to open other commercial credit lines at a rapid pace. Here are some facts:
- There’s now over 12 million victims of identity theft per year and at least 5% are African American
- Nearly 35 million Americans have been a victim in some capacity
- Nearly 10% of all U.S. households have been a victim in some capacity
- 22% of identity theft victims have experienced multiple cases of identity theft
- 29% of victims spend a month or more trying to resolve identity theft problems
- Nearly 40% of victims report bouts of severe emotional distress as a result
- Average loss per identity theft case is over $5,000
- Total identity theft losses in 2014 were $26,350,000,000
- Half of identity theft cases go unnoticed for at least 30 days
- 1 out of 10 identity theft crimes go unnoticed or hidden for 2 or more years
Due to the well-known fact that most black businesses have lower sources of capital, assets, and general wealth/resources compared to their white counterparts, it’s vital that a black business owner do the best that they can to avoid becoming a victim of business or personal identity theft.
As covered by the BBB, identity thieves can hack into your personal or business information through a variety of ways:
- Bank accounts
- Credit reports
- Loan accounts
- Fraudulent business filings
- Social Security numbers
- Tax Identification numbers
- Credit Card accounts
- Cell phone service
- Internet account service
- Pretending to be you or a major manager of your company to gain external data
Thieves will usually use stolen card numbers, bank accounts, etc., to immediately purchase items that they can resell for cash on the black market. These actions can obviously leave a business with a destroyed credit rating, loss of revenue, loss of business, potential cash-flow issues, and a variety of other problems.
Here are a variety of steps you can take to help reduce the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft through either your personal or business related information:
- Do not send any information to people you don’t know.
- Keep all important business and personal documentation in a secure place.
- Use anti-virus software, fraud management tools, and firewalls for all technologies, computers, and devices.
- Review your business and personal credit reports often, with alerts notifying you of when there’s any type of change to your profiles or reports.
- Sign up for identity theft insurance, which comes with monitoring services to notify you of suspicious activity
- Sign up for online banking, set up various security alerts/controls and review all of your details daily within your bank accounts.
- Make sure all of the alerts on your credit cards, credit line accounts, loan accounts, insurance accounts, investment accounts, and any other important accounts are set up to notify you of when there’s any changes, additions, updates, etc. Also, try to review said accounts on at least a bi-weekly basis.
- Run a lien check, business record check, and other public information check against your personal and business profiles at least on a quarterly basis, or have some sort of credit monitoring program that monitors these activities.
If An Event Occurs
If you think you might be a victim, contact your identity theft insurance provider immediately to notify them. In addition, file a police report and place a fraud alert on all accounts. Also, make sure to contact all of your partners, bankers, creditors, accountants, attorneys, vendors, suppliers, etc., to notify them of the situation and begin making various arrangements for assistance or payment modifications. Perps are getting more creative in how they steal information and more efficient in how fast they sell off stolen purchased items. Billions a year are being lost along with destroyed identities and reputations. Manage your identity to the fullest and don’t let the perps win.