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Identity Crisis

Make no mistake--business identity theft can happen to you if you're not careful.

By Nichole L. Torres

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Personal identity theft is all too common. But what do you dowhen your business information is stolen and someone chargespurchases to your accounts and ruins your business credit history?An estimated 52,400 businesses were affected by ID theft as of June2002, an increase of 74.8 percent since January 2001, according tothe FTC. John R. Vacca, author of Identity Theft (PrenticeHall), suggests a multipronged approach to prevention. Limit theemployees who have access to sensitive information, screenoutsourcing companies thoroughly, and always encrypt sensitive dataon your computer network.

Because one form of business ID theft happens when others forgepayroll checks against your business accounts, Johnny R.May, author of The Guide to Identity Theft Prevention(1st Books Library), recommends guarding check stock like cash.Don't use preprinted check stock; instead, encourage directdeposit, and shred sensitive documents on a regular basis."The more paper you have, the more your company is at risk forfraud," says May. Keep two accounts, one for transactions andone for large sums of money from which only you have the authorityto withdraw. That way, anyone who gets into your transactionaccount can't clean you out completely.

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