What is corporate identity theft? How to protect your business

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03 Nov 2023

What is corporate identity theft? How to protect your business

What is corporate identity theft?

If you’ve ever wondered, can a business have their identity stolen? The answer’s a definite yes. This is known as corporate identity theft or business identity theft. It can lead to major complications. Much like misusing someone’s identity, cybercriminals steal a company's critical information – name, address, credit card details etc. to commit fraud. Examples include getting credit, taking out loans, buying items, or even conning your customers – all in your business's name.

But even though 91% of security decision-makers dealt with a security incident in the last year, over 65% of businesses still don’t believe they’ll be affected by a cybersecurity incident.

How can corporate identity theft happen?

So what methods do business identity thieves use? Unfortunately, they've got a toolkit of strategies to tease information out of you. The usual suspects include:

These cunning emails appear trustworthy but are designed to trick you into sharing sensitive info, clicking on perilous links, or downloading malware. They often look like they're from your bank or a credit card company to create a sense of urgency. So more than likely, you act without thinking.

  • Fake Invoices

These look like you’re genuinely being invoiced for products or services your business uses. Criminals tend to send the invoices directly to your Accounts department, hoping they'll pay without questioning it.

  • Tax filing

Cybercriminals might complete false tax returns using your business's name to get a hefty tax refund. The aftermath could leave you repaying taxes you never owed. Even worse, there could be a potential audit from your local tax authorities – costing time, resources, and possibly more money.

  • Fake social media accounts:

Bogus social media profiles use your business's name and logo to fool your customers and partners into revealing sensitive financial info. The result can leave you out of pocket and nursing a battered reputation.

  • Look-alike websites:

Similar to fake social media accounts, these deceptive websites either mimic your company's site. They try to convince your customers to part with sensitive info, or mirror a trusted institution like a bank to lure you in. They’re typically coupled with links in phishing emails for double the trouble.

Consequences of corporate identity theft

The consequences of corporate ID theft are no joke – possibly stretching from financial chaos to a tainted reputation.

Fraudulent tax returns could drain your resources, leaving you to sort out the mess with authorities. Criminals might steal sensitive data, putting your company at risk. And clients, partners, and investors could lose faith in your ability to safeguard their data. Leaving your once-solid reputation in the dust.

Protecting your business from identity theft

Business identity theft protection is a bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. It takes different layers of security, a good dose of awareness, and some proactive moves. But don’t worry – here’s how to shield yourself:

  • Protect your IT systems

Strengthen security by setting up firewalls and intrusion detection. Use the latest operating systems, apps, antivirus and security software to plug any vulnerabilities. And regularly back up your systems to minimise any losses from cyberattacks.

  • Register your trademark

Registering your company's name, logo, and other distinctive elements as trademarks can help stop others misusing your identity. You can usually do it at an official Intellectual Property Office or similar body.

  • Use MFA (multifactor authentication)

For extra security, set up MFA for accessing sensitive material. This could involve text messages, email verification, authentication apps or even biometric security like fingerprint or face recognition.

  • Educate employees

Regular cybersecurity training helps your team spot social engineering tricks like phishing, detect suspicious activities. It tells them how, when and where to report it. It’s also worth establishing a culture that uses complex passwords, and encourages people to regularly refresh them.

  • Reassess regularly

Keep in mind cybersecurity isn't a one-and-done deal. Cybercriminals are constantly upping their game, so stay a few steps ahead. Look out for hardware and software updates. Conduct vulnerability checks to find weak spots internally and in your supply chain. And keep an eye on emerging threats.

What should I do if my business is a victim of corporate identity theft?

If the worst happens, don’t panic, but act quickly. Notify the police, your banks and credit card companies and bring in legal experts. Keep your partners and clients in the loop. Plan a strategic way to communicate the issue. Getting professional help and being transparent can make a big difference in getting through a challenging time.

For more information on corporate identity theft, get 1-2-1 advice from one of our V-Hub Digital Advisors. Read more cybersecurity advice in our Knowledge Centre.

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