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A look at small business questions from the Southwestern Oregon Community College Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
By Arlene M. Soto CMA, CGBP, Southwestern SBDC Director

What can I do to prevent my business from becoming a victim of identity theft?

Consumers are not the only ones who need to beware of identity theft; businesses are also at risk according to the Better Business Bureau. The theft may come in the form of forged checks, counterfeit payroll checks, your business name being used for fraudulent purposes or invoices for goods or services you didn’t order and never received.

Some suggestions for protecting your business identity include:

  • Never respond to unsolicited emails with bank account information, social security numbers, passwords or other personal information.
  • Contact actual businesses or government agencies requesting financial information directly at websites or phone numbers you know to be legitimate.
  • Use anti-virus, data encryption, security software and fire-walls to protect vital computer systems. Backup computer information in a secure manner and don’t leave the backup disks in an available location.
  • Reconcile monthly bank statements to verify transactions. Contact your financial institution immediately if errors are found.
  • Scrutinize all invoices prior to payment to ensure billings are accurate and for something you purchased.
  • Shred sensitive documents when you no longer need them.
  • Guard check stock like cash or don’t use preprinted check stock.
  • Do background checks on prospective employees prior to hiring them especially if they will have access to sensitive company information.
  • Clean hard drives on computers prior to selling them by using software specifically designed to remove all data.

More tips on avoiding business identity theft are available from these websites http://business.ftc.gov/, www.identitytheft.org, www.cfenet.com and www.bbb.org or pick up “The Guide To Identity Theft Prevention” by Johnny R. May or “Identity Theft” by John R. Vacca. Your bank may also have helpful resources for avoiding business identity theft.

If you have been the victim of business identity theft, report any suspected fraud to the police, state attorney general’s office, credit reporting bureaus including Dun & Bradstreet and your bank immediately. The Federal Trade Commission has information available to assist with filing an identity theft report and beginning the recovery process. Retain documentation of all communication regarding the identity theft including notes from phone conversations, written correspondence, print outs of emails, copies of reports filed and contacts made in a secure, accessible location.

The SBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, the Oregon Business Development Department and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Arlene M. Soto has been the Director of the Southwestern Small Business Development Center since July 2007. To ask a question call 541-756-6445, e-mail asoto@socc.edu, or write 2455 Maple Leaf, North Bend, OR 97459. Additional help is available at the OSBDCN Web page www.bizcenter.org.

© 2012 OSBDCN. All rights reserved.      Habla español?

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