Last month, an Atlanta man hired a random moving company he found online, put down a deposit for his move, and …
You know where this is going.
The “company” the man hired, he soon found out, was not a real moving company. It was a scam website that used the name of a real moving company located across the country in California. This scam website, the victim told Atlanta’s WSB-TV, even linked to the real company they alleged to be’s website.
The only victim, in this case, was the man who hired the scammers—a man who happened to be a lawyer with the skills and resources to get his money back. Meanwhile, the real moving company out in California would have had no idea what was happening if the man hadn’t reached out to them. But things could have turned out much differently. They usually do.
What do they do?
We see it all the time: someone sets up a phony moving company using a real moving company’s name to appear legitimate, then proceeds to swindle people out of their money, not only by charging a deposit for their non-existent services, but by using the victim’s credit card information to make additional charges. Or in some cases, just go shopping.
But the scam can also affect the moving company whose name has been stolen. Victims can start posting bad reviews on the real moving company’s Yelp page, filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau, or even contacting law enforcement authorities in an effort to get their money back while trying to make sure no one else uses these “scammers”. The effects for the legitimate moving company can be devastating.
How do they do it?
All businesses have an Employee Identification Number, or EIN, which works sort of like a social security number. These numbers are a matter of public record and are readily obtainable, sometimes even online. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that this right here can cause problems.
But that’s not the only piece of your company’s identity floating around out there; Besides your company name, address and phone number being readily available, some states require businesses to display their business license on the wall of their establishment, with their state registration information framed and hung for all to see.
With any of these few bits of information – printed out on a copy of your company letterhead, an extra nice touch as The Balance explains – it can be fairly easy for a person to set up a line of credit in your company’s name.
The savvier scammers out there even know how to change the information on your state registration files, one of the many additional schemes that Business ID Theft tells us to look out for. Spend some time reading through the various steps you can take to protect yourself and your company.
While you’re at it, check this page to review your business filings, and make sure you’ve kept up to date with all the required paperwork.
Here are some simple things you can do to prevent company identity theft:
- Run periodic credit checks on your company
- Read through your monthly credit card and bank statements carefully
- Check Yelp for any false reviews
- Be aware of your social media presence. Who’s posting what about you or what’s on your own Facebook page
- Monitor your BBB rating if you are an active member
- Set up a Google Alert for your own company’s name
- Simply Google your company name every once in a while
Making sure you don’t end up with a sullied reputation is, sadly, a part of doing business. But you’ve worked hard to build up your business and your good name. Take the necessary steps to make sure no one out there destroys it.