Business theft on the rise

Every year, businesses throughout the nation lose millions of dollars to computer crime and credit card fraud.

Thieves look for information such as a name, address, date of birth, social security number and mother's maiden name, according to Amy O'Brien, vice president of communications for the Better Business Bureau in Phoenix.

The information can then be used to impersonate the individual, stealing their identity.

Thieves can use the personal information to set up new checking accounts with the business' name.

"They can use these pieces of information to take your identity away from you," O'Brien said.

O'Brien also said business theft in the state is on the rise.

"Thefts to businesses in Arizona has been really bad lately," O'Brien said.

According to Kingman police records, non-residential burglaries in the city rose 36 percent in 2000 from the year before.

In 1999, there were 116 reports of burglaries to businesses, while in 2000, KPD responded to 158 commercial burglaries, Kingman police Cpl.

Tracie McKnight said.

Businesses need to protect the information not only for their customers but also for employees.

It is important to develop a screening process for employees, a company's cleaning service and temporary firms who have access to personal information, O'Brien said.

Thieves can steal information from documents in mailboxes, especially a cluster of mailboxes used by several small businesses in one building.

A thief can break into a master lock for easy access to all the boxes, she said.

Nationwide, there were 1,379 cases of mail fraud involving a business from October 1999 to September 2000.

One example of mail fraud is a yellow page scam.

That is where thieves bill a business, which then think they are paying for a yellow page ad, according to U.S.

Postal Inspector Virgil Moore.

Thieves can also break into a business office itself or into employees' vehicles to steal personal identification files.

Businesses that purchase items over the Internet are also vulnerable to theft.

Computer thieves can steal a company's business and tax numbers used in Internet purchases, O'Brien said.

The Better Business Bureau recommends that employers keep all personal information in locked files and establish secure procedures for retrieving data.

Limiting the use of personal identifiers, such as social security numbers, also protects individual employees.

Use shredders for disposing personal information.

It is important to adopt a written protection policy and display it in the company's literature or on the company's Web site.

Companies may want to rethink what type of information they gather from customers.

Less information is better, she said.

For more information, contact the Better Business Bureau at 602-264-1721 or toll free at 1-877-291-6222.

A Web Site is available at www.Kingman.bbb.org.