Illinois Business Journal report
Business owners have a unique responsibility when it comes to identity theft, having to worry about the welfare of themselves, their businesses, their employees and their customers.
The Better Business Bureau and the website BusinessTheftID.org offer a series of tips to follow to protect companies against such theft.
- Protect your business bank accounts from fraud by reviewing your commercial and business banking agreements. Such accounts are covered by the Uniform Commercial Code, a series of guidelines that most states adhere to in commercial transactions. Because of that, businesses have shorter reporting timelines, fewer protections and higher liability for fraud than with standard consumer accounts. Individual banks can have policies that can have a significant impact on a business’ liability for fraudulent transactions.
- Enact security and authentication controls to protect against fraudulent wire transfers and electronic transactions. Through spyware and compromised banking credentials, criminals can initiate fraudulent payments and transfers out of a business’ bank account, and they can happen in moments. “Even finding and reporting the fraud within hours can frequently be too late to stop the transfer or recover the funds,” Business TheftID.org says. Many victimized business suffer huge losses and only recover a fraction of stolen funds.
- If your business utilizes wire transfers, implement dual controls that require two-party approval for outgoing wire transfers. If an outside third party fraudulently initiates a wire transfer, the additional authorizer control can help prevent the transfer from being completed. Some companies prefer multiple layers of approval, such as email, fax, telephone, special tokens, etc., before a transfer is approved.
- Ask your bank if you can block wire transfers, regardless if you do not routinely use them.
- Frequently review your business accounts and report suspicious activity. Online banking allows you to quickly log in to your bank account and view your account transactions. Many banks also provide email and text alerts. Some experts say if you reduce your “paper trial” you can also cut down on fraud.
- Access your online banking and other financial accounts using one secure, dedicated computer that maintains regularly updated commercial anti-virus / anti-spyware / Internet security software. Do not rely on free or limited versions of security software. The computer you use to access your accounts should not used by other people or for non-business activities, such as email or web surfing. Do not log in to your online accounts using public access points or Wi-Fi hotspots, which may not be secure or may be infected with spyware.
- If you pay by company check, consider enrolling in Positive Pay
Most U.S commercial banks offer Positive Pay services which can significantly reduce business check fraud losses. Using Positive Pay, when you write business checks, you provide your bank with a list of check numbers and dollar amounts. Your bank compares any checks received for payment against your list. If a check doesn’t match, it is identified as an “exception” and is not paid.
- Keep your business checking account supplies secure. Checks, deposit slips, endorsement stamps and related account supplies and records should be kept in a secure location not accessible to unauthorized people.
The risks are unique
Business owners, officers, directors and key executives have significantly increased risks over average consumers because their personal information, credit and finances are so closely intertwined with their businesses.
Depending upon your capacity and involvement in the business, the size of your business and the extent of the fraud, some of the additional personal risks include:
- Inability to meet payroll, tax obligations, or pay bills. You may have to lay off employees, make dramatic cuts, or pay business obligations from your own personal finances or credit cards.
- Because many credit cards, loans, lines of credit, and other accounts require a personal guaranty from one or more of the business owners, you may be held personally liable for debt, if you’re to make required payments.
- Your personal credit report could be negatively affected, especially if ID thieves use your information to open new lines of credit. That could lead to reduced personal credit limits and higher interest rates on your current credit lines or the inability to get new loans or other financing.