Business ID Thieves Are Having a COVID-19 Party Right Now

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated September 25, 2021

The COVID-19 situation has brought unprecedented levels of economic uncertainty, with many businesses closing temporarily or permanently, their partners being left hanging or in the dark, and workers and associates trying to pivot to the next stable rock in a sinking city. It is always during times like these when crooks and cyber-criminals thrive.

As Krebs on Security reports, business ID thieves previously targeting the smaller fish in the pond are now turning their attention towards the exploitation of assistance loans and even unemployment benefit programs.

Krebs looks into two specific cases that are characteristic of what is going on in the field right now. ‘Environmental Safety Consultants Inc.’ is a Florida-based firm that has been around in the past 37 years. The owner, Scott Russell, learned that someone had rented an office space in his name, receiving non-stop deliveries of computers and various electronic products that were immediately carted away. The man found out that the scammers had used a fake ID and a vehicle insurance card for a car he had sold over 15 years ago. The bill had reached $75,000 when Russell got to the bottom of this, but the local sheriff’s office wasn’t very interested in chasing after the actors.

Another case was that of an event management firm named “Fan Experiences.” Business ID thieves began issuing credit cards in the business owner’s name, spending all they could in ordering valuable goods. The actors even locked the owner out of her email address and Google account by resetting the credentials. They then added new officers and locations for “Fan Experiences,” to match the area of the rented spaces that received the packages. The victim had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and credit status restoration.

COVID-19 has made it even worse, and as analytics companies report, the spike in the particular type of crime has reached about 258% in 2020 (compared to 2019). ‘Dun & Bradstreet’ alone has received over 4,7000 business identity theft tips in the United States.

‘Hold Security,’ who is also following these activities, closely reports that actors are using image editors to forge fake business documents based on stolen files. In many cases, they have social security and tax ID numbers and even utility bills - and these obviously help a lot when trying to prove ownership over another person’s company.

The actors are using the documents mentioned above to trick public programs that hand out loans and various types of financial assistance but make the submissions using email addresses under their control.

In many cases, they register a domain that is similar to the official/legit and use the domain emails to make their bogus assistance claims. The victims usually only realize what happened when the debt collectors call, and by that time, the debts that burden them have already piled up.

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