Is EIN public information? Yes, it is, but should be strictly guarded. An employer identification number (EIN) is a number exclusively assigned to an entity to enable the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to easily identify such an entity.

EIN Overview

Every business entity is assigned an EIN. An EIN is made up of nine digits and can be acquired in person or via the internet. It can be used for business banking needs like opening an account or getting a loan. It is also used to acquire state or federal licensing for businesses. The EIN enables its owner to do business and give financial information to the IRS. EIN makes a business entity vulnerable to other entities because it isn't strictly confidential.

Finding Your EIN

To find out what your own EIN is, reach out to the IRS through their Business and Specialty Tax Line. The toll-free numbers (1-800-829-4933 or 1-800-829-4059) are active from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every weekday. The IRS will help you find your EIN if you're a business entity. Unless you got into business recently, there's a chance you can find your EIN on the tax returns you previously filed.

Corporate officers, persons with power of attorney, and partners in a partnership can all reach out to the IRS to help find their EIN. However, no entity is permitted to request the EIN of another entity. Also, check the original notice you got from the IRS when you turned in your EIN application. If your business has a license, your EIN could be found there as well.

Verifying an Entity's EIN

You can verify the EIN of an entity by doing the following:

  • Visit their website and check their about page, privacy policy page, and terms of service page
  • Check the website of the entity's home state
  • Subscribe to commercial databases online

Other Means of Finding an EIN

If you couldn't get help with all of those options, you can try engaging a private investigator. Typically, private investigators have access to confidential records and know how to dig for information. They can assist with finding a corporation's EIN number or hunt down companies that pulled the plug after raising funds by scamming their customers.

Corporate Identity Theft

Like the theft of personal identity, theft of an entity's EIN is the first move in stealing its corporate identity. The moment someone gets access to an entity's EIN, they can use it to open business banking accounts, corporate credit accounts, and even acquire personal credit. Such criminals can access an entity's mail, claim customers checks in the name of their victim, deposit money into an account they opened in their victim's name, and make cash withdrawals.

Impostors can also acquire wholesale goods that are tax-free. Impostor, usually employees in this case, may use their own money to purchase the products, but the company will still be listed as the recipient. Despite being unaware of these activities, if the entity's business undergoes an IRS audit and the entity isn't able to properly account for transactions or seemingly evaded taxes on purchased goods they actually didn't order, they'll be held responsible.

Preventing Identity Theft

If a website isn't secured by encryption, online hackers may gains access and steal sensitive information. Furthermore, the University of Virginia stated that if an entity provides their EIN using a wireless network that's not secure, like the ones at an eatery, coffee shop, library, and other similar public amenities, they're risking exploitation by hackers.

The following are some preventive measures an entity can take to stay safe from identity theft:

  • Run a yearly EIN credit check to detect suspicious activity.
  • Before disclosing an EIN on the internet, make sure the site address begins with “https,” which stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure and means that the site uses an encryption-technology-enabled server to send and receive information.
  • Don't position your EIN certificate for everyone to see. File it in a secure place to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Use prepaid business card accounts instead of a regular corporate card. That way deactivation can be done in real time in the event of identity theft.

If you need help with EIN protection, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.