When we think about fraud committed against individuals, many of us immediately think of identity theft. Identity theft is the taking of a victim’s private information (such as their social insurance number or birthdate) to use for financial gain. Examples of identity theft include applying for and using a credit card with the stolen information. Our awareness of identity theft as a crime has increased significantly over the past few years, because the issue has been regularly featured on the news and in popular culture, and the risks have been frequently highlighted by financial literacy organizations (such as CPA Canada).
Though many people are well aware of the risks of individual identity theft, what is not as commonly known is that identity theft can just as easily happen to a business. Identity theft for a business has the same definition as for an individual: acquiring a business’s private information to use for financial gain.
Any person(s) committing fraud, including identity theft, will typically need to have all three of the following factors: incentive, rationalization and opportunity. These factors are, in fact, more commonly present when committing business identity theft for the following reasons:
For individual identity theft, a person’s social insurance number (SIN) and birthdate are key pieces of information to acquire. For a business, the key information to protect against identity theft is your company’s business number (BN) and/or provincial tax identification number. In Ontario, that would be your Business Identification Number (BIN). Other key information that may be used for business identity theft include:
There are several ways in which a business identity thief can use the acquired information for financial gain. Examples include:
The consequences of identity theft for a business, much like for an individual, is lost time and money. Examples include:
To mitigate business identity fraud, there are both preventative and detective actions that can be taken. Preventative actions help to protect against the theft occurring in the first place. Detective actions help to discover the business identity theft before significant losses have occurred.
Source: CPA Canada Business Matter Newsletter (may have been reproduced or customized by us).
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