Mar 26 2012

That Logo Just Stole My Identity! The Rising Threat of Business Identity Theft

Con artists are piggybacking on company names for nefarious purposes.

Identity theft — theft of an individual’s personal information such as name, social security number and financial account information — gets a lot of attention. People are aware of the risks of identity theft, and there is an abundance of tools and resources available to consumers who believe their identities have been stolen or compromised.

But what happens if an unknown entity sets up shop on the web or in the Yellow Pages with your company’s name? Who do you turn to?

Brian Donohue of Threatpost explores the issue of business identity theft after reading a report on the subject from NPR’s Yuki Noguchi.

Noguchi tells the story of Scott Burnett and the Memphis-based company he and his family have operated for the last 40 years or so, AAA Termite & Pest Control. Burnett claims that when he opened the Yellow Pages last year, he was dismayed to see that there were three “me-too” listings affiliated with his business.

None of those numbers were actually affiliated with Burnett’s businesses. When he looked up their addresses, they either pointed to vacant lots or gas stations. When Burnett called the numbers and asked to speak with a manager, the person on the phone hung up.

So, Burnett hired a lawyer, but the phone company reportedly refused to divulge any information about who was behind the fraudulent listings. He then called the National Pest Management Association, but they didn’t know what he should do. Apparently the only person Burnett could find that knew anything about business identity theft was a local locksmith who was also the victim of business identity theft. This is the problem: business identity theft, despite the fact that it could be quite commonplace, is so obscure that no one knows what to do about it.

The motives behind business identity theft remain murky, but it’s clear that business owners need to keep an eye out for any imposters who may be out in the market, damaging their brand by offering fraudulent or unauthorized services in their name.

For more on the business identity theft issue, read Donohue’s post on Threatpost.