Online business filings with the State facilitate the rapid and cost-effective conduct of business; however, criminals are apparently misusing the same system to obtain fraudulent loans using the credit of legitimate, but unwary, businesses. According to the Secretary of State’s office:
The criminals manipulate targeted business filing records at the Secretary of State’s office by changing a business’s information in order to imply that they have a legitimate stake in the company. These identity thieves use this maliciously altered information along with other records to apply for lines of credit from major retailers. Before the company’s actual owner or agent realizes what has happened, the business starts to receive calls from debt collectors and suffers damage to its credit report.There are a number of steps you can take to protect your human-owned business from such inhuman and illegal activity. First and foremost, protect your most sensitive information, including your bank account numbers and employer identification number (EIN), as you would your social security number and personal account numbers.
Another easy and important step is to sign up for the Secretary of State’s business records notification service. Whenever a change is made to your company’s online filings at the Secretary of State’s office, an email will automatically be sent to you.
Checklists for preventing business identification theft and for dealing with it, if you should become a victim, are also available on the Secretary of State site. More resources from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Attorney General and the Secretary of State are available at a combined Protect Your Business site.
Thanks to Brian Gryth, a reader of this blog and an attorney in the Colorado Secretary of State's office for his tip on this critical, but avoidable, problem for Colorado business.