Every business is susceptible to fraud. Bad actors adapt their methods almost as quickly as security experts create new methods to detect fraudulent activity. While it is impossible for a business to prevent every type of fraud, staying vigilant and taking basic precautions will help prevent you from becoming a victim.
According to Dun & Bradstreet’s High Risk and Fraud Insight (HRFI) team, identity theft traditionally increases after major natural disasters and national crisis. In 2019, the team saw an over 100 percent increase in business identity theft.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread through the world, so too has fraudulent activity that affects small businesses. According to Dun & Bradstreet HRFI data, the team estimates an overall 258 percent spike in business identity theft since the beginning of 2020 – mostly focused on gaining illegal access to relief and recovery funding. For example, the Paycheck Protection Program in the U.S., under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), prioritized millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and other expenses. While the vast majority of relief funding has been channeled to upstanding small businesses in need, we have also observed a small number of bad actors who have falsified records to apply for and attempt to gain access to those crucial government dollars.
Crises like the COVID-19 pandemic offer a prime opportunity to prey on unsuspecting businesses while they are preoccupied with keeping their businesses afloat. With fraudsters constantly adopting technologically advanced and unique approaches to theft, it can be challenging to understand how criminals can fraudulently exploit your business. Unfortunately, even the most vigilant companies can become victims of identity theft.
Constantly monitoring your business information so you know quickly if your company has been a victim of fraud is key to minimizing the damage. Here are several ways you can proactively fight business identity theft:
- Business Records: Proactively monitor and update your live business identity to ensure that your information is up-to-date, and that you can validate the information cited in your account. For example, look for any changes, inaccuracies or missing information related to your business name, address, phone number, ownership, and website address.
- Personal & Business Credit: Check your business credit to keep an eye on the financial health of your company, and to spot nefarious activity. It is equally important to protect your personal identity information and monitor your personal credit, as personal identity theft can also put your business at risk.
- State Records: Regularly monitor and update your business records and professional licenses with state, county and city registrar offices. Regularly monitor for any changes to corporate or LLC information that may be available on the State Secretary State or Division of Corporation websites.
- Industry Resources: Utilize Dun & Bradstreet's resources such as D-U-N-S® Manager to manage the business information in your Dun & Bradstreet credit file for free, and set-up monitoring alerts using a free service like CreditSignal or a paid service like CreditMonitor that can notify you of changes to your business credit file so that you can quickly take action to help limit damage and mitigate further risk.
In many cases, fraudulent activity can be detected by reviewing your business profile, as well as any credit inquiries that may have been requested. Below are three areas to consider:
- Contact Information: Review the contact name, phone number(s), email address, website and location address appearing on your business records and credit report. If you discover a new contact and/or an unfamiliar address, it may indicate that your business account has been compromised and used for fraudulent activity, including the application for credit, or purchasing of products.
- Accounts: If you do not recognize an account under your business name, and the account is newly opened, the activity may indicate that a criminal has obtained a line of credit using your identity.
- Inquiries: Review all the inquiries on your credit report. If you do not recognize the inquiries or the creditor accessing your report, that may indicate fraudulent activity.
If you suspect fraudulent activity on your account, please contact Dun & Bradstreet Support Team at https://support.dnb.com/
As COVID-19 continues to impact business operations around the globe, the last thing your company needs is to have to fight identity theft. By recognizing how criminals can impersonate your business and by taking proactive steps to combat fraud, you are protecting your company’s reputation and bottom line, which is critical in the current economy.