There is a new form of identity theft in Florida, and it is affecting businesses and the information they have on file with the State of Florida.
All business entities in the state (like corporations and limited liability companies) must register with the state’s Division of Corporations, who is the keeper of the official records for all business entities in the State of Florida. The information kept on file by the Division of Corporations, which includes a company’s name, address, and names and addresses of owners/directors, is public and available to anyone who logs into the Division of Corporations’ website at www.sunbiz.org.
Because this information is available to the general public, identity thieves are logging into www.sunbiz.org and changing an individual company’s information as well as their contact email address (email is the only way the Division of Corporations corresponds with businesses.) The thieves then use these altered records to open new bank accounts, redirect a company’s mail to a new address, or fraudulently obtain lines of credit. In some cases, thieves have even used the altered information to get contracts and collect cash for work performed, leaving the original company with the tax burden.
Right now, a company’s information on file with the Division of Corporations at www.sunbiz.org is not password-protected, and the system cannot prevent an unauthorized user from going online and changing the information on file for any given company, leaving businesses vulnerable. However, the Division of Corporations has instituted an email alert process, where they will send an email notice to any business entity if that entity’s mailing address or FEIN is changed on www.sunbiz.org. If the change was not authorized, the business can then notify the state right away by using a link provided in the email. However, this only works if the email address on file with the state is the correct and authorized one.
We are advising our policyholders who are registered with the Division of Corporations to periodically check and verify the data on file for them with the state, to make sure no unauthorized changes have been made. At www.sunbiz.org, a business can click on “Search our Records” then “Inquire by Name” and enter their business name. When they click on their company’s name, all the company’s information currently on file with the state will come up. A business needs to check it over carefully and make sure the information on file is accurate, especially the business mailing address, FEIN and authorized contact email address.
More information about business identity theft is available from the National Association of Secretaries of State at www.nass.org.
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