Are you complying with the Red Flags Rule?

The Red Flags Rule requires many businesses and organizations to implement a written Identity Theft Prevention Program designed to detect the warning signs — or “red flags” — of identity theft in their day-to-day operations. Below are excerpts that pertain to businesses that probably are not aware they fall under the Red Flags Rule.

What types of businesses and organizations are covered by the Red Flags Rule?

    The Rule applies to both  “financial institutions” and “creditors.” It’s important to look closely at how the Rule defines those terms because they apply to groups that might not typically use those words to describe themselves. Whether your business or organization is a financial institution or creditor isn’t based on the line of work you’re in, but rather on whether your activities fall within the definitions in the law. The Red Flags Rule gives examples of businesses and organizations that probably are covered, but the list isn’t exhaustive. 

    Under the Rule, the definition of “creditor” is broad, and includes businesses or organizations that regularly provide goods or services first and allow customers to pay later. Examples of groups that may fall within this definition are utilities, health care providers, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals, and telecommunications companies. The definition also covers businesses or organizations that regularly grant loans, arrange for loans or the extension of credit, or make credit decisions. Examples include finance companies, mortgage brokers, and automobile dealers or retailers that offer financing or collect or process credit applications for third party lenders. In addition, the definition includes anyone who regularly participates in the decision to extend, renew, or continue credit, including setting the terms of credit. For example, a third-party debt collector who regularly renegotiates the terms of a debt would be a creditor under the Rule.


Do all creditors and financial institutions need to have a written Identity Theft Prevention Program?

    If you have covered accounts, you must develop and implement a written Program to detect and respond to the red flags of identity theft — taking into consideration the nature of your business and the risks you face — and update your Program periodically. If you don’t have any covered accounts, you don’t need a written Program, but you still need to conduct periodic risk assessments to determine if you’ve acquired any covered accounts through changes to your business.

Only creditors and financial institutions that have “covered accounts” need a Program. Once you’ve determined you’re a creditor or financial institution under the Red Flags Rule, the next step is to figure out if you have any covered accounts. The Rule defines that term as either: 1) consumer accounts designed to permit multiple payments or transactions, or 2) any other account that presents a reasonably foreseeable risk from identity theft.

Am I a creditor under the Rule if I extend credit to other businesses?

    Yes, you’re a creditor whether you have consumer or business customers.
    It depends. If you’re a creditor with only business-to-business accounts, you have to assess whether those accounts pose a reasonably foreseeable risk from identity theft. If they do, they’re “covered accounts” under the Rule.

Do I have covered accounts if I’m a business creditor?

Are you covered by the Red Flags Rule? Download the PDF Fighting Fraud with the Red Flags Rule: A How-To Guide for Business to:

By identifying red flags in advance, you’ll be better equipped to spot suspicious patterns when they arise and take steps to prevent a red flag from escalating into a costly episode of identity theft. Take advantage of other resources on this site to educate your employees and colleagues about complying with the Red Flags Rule.

Fighting Fraud with the Red Flags Rule: A How-To Guide for Businesses PDF All About Red Flags Video Do-It-Yourself Template for Businesses at Low Risk PDF

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