At least two Ohio body shops recently had their federal tax identification numbers stolen and are warning other shops to safeguard theirs.
Dawn Hilty, owner of Wingate Body Shop in Findlay, Ohio, and vice president of the Ohio Body Shop Owners Association, says someone recently acquired her shop’s federal tax ID number and has been attempting to purchase cell phones in Atlanta, Panama City, Fla., Houston and Cincinnati, Ohio.
“I’m trying to get protection for my business through Equifax, Experian and TransUnion,” Hilty says. “But nobody can put a fraud alert on my credit report because of the tax ID number they only use social security numbers.”
Hilty says that the procedure stores use to start up business credit accounts is too easy. All that’s needed, she says, is a business name, address and tax ID number.
"Credit is given on the spot,” she says. “There’s no verification process at all. Small businesses have no way of protecting themselves.”
Hilty suggests that all businesses, including body shops, stop printing their federal tax ID numbers on every estimate/invoice they write.
“I would also suggest that we as small business owners require much more phone identification when giving our information to insurers or anyone else asking for this type of information,” she says.
Another case happened to Boutwell Collision Center, also of Findlay, Ohio. On May 21, someone tried to open a credit line at a wireless company in Cincinnati using the shop’s federal tax ID number. Officer Manager Vanessa Boutwell-Dietsch called Dunn and Bradstreet as well as Transunion to place a fraud alert on the shop’s credit report. Shortly after the incident with the wireless company, someone tried to obtain a Staples credit card using the shop’s tax ID number.
“Everyone’s heard of identity theft, but most people aren’t familiar with this type of fraud,” Boutwell-Dietsch says. “Body shops give their federal tax ID numbers primarily to insurance companies for the purpose of payment, and I’m not sure there’s a way around this. So here we are waiting to see what bill may come in the mail today.”