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Business Identity Theft

+ What is business identity theft?

When most people think of identity theft, they think of an individual victim’s Social Security or credit card number being stolen. However, identity theft does not just affect individuals. Criminals are targeting businesses of all sizes. Business identity theft involves the actual imitation of the business itself. It can occur through the theft or misuse of key business information, or falsification of business filings and records, and other related criminal activities. Businesses of all types and sizes including sole-proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, trusts, non-profits, and corporations are all targets of business identity theft. Like consumer identity theft, business identity theft can result in potentially disastrous consequences. Identity criminals can steal a business’ identity by gaining access to the business’ bank accounts and credit cards or by stealing sensitive company information.

To help you monitor your business, the Texas Secretary of State provides access to its records through its easy-to-use online web access system, SOSDirect. Check your business’ filings with the Secretary of State’s office at least once a year. Our office provides online search features that make it easy to check and verify that your company records on file are accurate and up–to–date. SOSDirect provides the user the ability to search by entity name, registered agent, officer or director of a corporation, members and managers of a limited liability company, general partners of a limited partnership, and to review the filing history of an entity.

For more information on business identity theft, visit the Identity Theft Resource Center and the National Cybersecurity Society websites.

+ What can a business do to prevent and detect business identity theft?

Take the following initial steps to protect your business from business identity theft:
  • Periodically monitor your business and update your business' records by creating an SOSDirect client account. SOSDirect clients can perform searches and to submit electronic filings to update the business entity's record, when needed.
  • Criminals target businesses that have been tax forfeited. If your business ceases to conduct business, you should file a certificate of termination with the Secretary of State. The certificate of termination must be accompanied by a certificate of account status from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts indicating that all taxes have been paid and that the entity is in good standing for the purpose of termination.
  • Obtain a commercial credit report for your business.
  • Sign up for electronic notifications with your bank, other creditors, and service providers.
  • Monitor accounts and bills and immediately report any suspicious activity to the originating company.
  • Protect your EIN (employer identification number), account numbers, and other personal information.
  • Do not share any sensitive information over email or on any web-based service.

+ What do you do if you believe your business is a victim of business identity theft?

If you believe your business is a victim of business identity theft, you should immediately take the following steps:
  • Report the theft to your local law enforcement agency and obtain a police report.
  • Contact banks or credit providers and report the theft.
  • Contact the largest credit reporting agencies and speak with the fraud department to report the crime and view your business credit report.
  • Place a fraud alert on your business accounts.
  • Contact creditors where fraudulent accounts were opened, and request copies of all documentation used to open or access the accounts.
  • Contact the US Postal Inspection Service to determine if the criminals changed your mailing address.
  • Contact the Texas Secretary of State to determine whether any changes have been made to the information on file that will necessitate the filing of any documents.
  • Contact the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, IRS, and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
  • Request copies of documents or email messages that were used by the criminals to fraudulently open or access your SOSDirect account.
  • If a false or fraudulent document has been filed to your business entity record, be sure to get a certified copy of the fraudulent filing before updating your records with the Secretary of State's office. The certified copy of the fraudulent filing may be used as evidence in court.

Visit the Texas Attorney General, the National Cybersecurity Society, and the Federal Trade Commission websites for more resources to protect against business identity theft.