Identity Thieves Strike Tucson Businessby Nick LaFleur on Apr. 19, 2012, under alert, Life, scam, Tips
Identity theft crimes are not limited to individuals; businesses can also become victims. Recently, a Tucson business- Happy Tails Travels- discovered this firsthand when they became a victim of business identity theft.
Happy Tails, which specializes in “personalized pet transportation services” for adopted pets, began getting phone calls in February from consumers who claimed they had wired money to Happy Tails with the promise of having a pet delivered to them. Happy Tails learned through these phone calls that scammers had copied their Web site, and were soliciting business from prospective customers, using the business’ name.
The callers told the business that the scammers posing as Happy Tails requested that their victims wire the money to them- making it almost impossible for law enforcement to track where the money went.
“The most frustrating part of this for us is this foreign based ‘company’ pops up over and over with different fake company names that they insert into our site,” said Happy Tails co-owner, Bridget Monrad. “This negatively affects our time and resources and hurts good hearted people who think they are adopting a pet.”
Copycats not only design similar-looking websites, but will create fraudulent advertisements and solicitations featuring real business names, logos and contact information to cheat consumers under false guises and potentially ruin other businesses’ reputations.
“Impostors hijack and exploit information from legitimate organizations to swindle unsuspecting consumers,” said Kim States, BBB President. “It’s becoming a huge problem, and ensnaring more and more businesses.”
Business victims usually detect stolen identities when confronted by customers regarding false solicitations, fake websites, phishing emails, fraudulent charges or check cashing schemes. Additionally, some receive delivery, billing and customer service complaints stemming from the identity theft.
Stolen identity clues include: unusual product or service requests; unfamiliar advertisements posted in directories or online; and unwarranted complaint reports filed by unknown customers. Even Better Business Bureau discovered a series of fake BBB.org emails after being alerted by businesses and consumers.
Tips to minimize the negative effects of business identity theft:
Claim the name and monitor business mentions. Make sure licensing and registration records are up-to-date with current contact details. Start Web alerts to track keywords such as business names, addresses or phone numbers to locate unauthorized online listings. If fake advertisements or websites are found, contact advertisers and site publishers to have them taken down or removed immediately.
Track inquiries and complaints. If strange reports come in, document the details.
Alert consumers. Promptly notify current customers about frauds; explain how it is being handled and include contact information in case questions arise. If widespread, publicize the issue through company websites, social media profiles, press releases and emails.
Report the crime. Inform local police, the Federal Trade Commission and the state Attorney General about the offense to help protect consumers and assist in other business identity theft investigations. Contact Better Business Bureau to ensure complaints are not miscategorized and request custom “stolen identity” text in BBB Business Reviews.