Identity Theft – Still Growing!
It’s been a frightening statistic and now it’s worse. Identity theft grew by 16% in 2016 and 15.4 million Americans were the victims. More, identity theft doesn’t just impact individuals; business identity theft is another growing category. Businesses give thieves access to bank accounts and credit limits that are larger and higher than those of individuals. It’s up to every individual and business to protect their identity and the identity of those who do business with them.
Do Not Share
Whether you’re an individual or a business, private information should be kept private. Account information should be handled on a need-to-know basis. That means that you keep your passwords and codes private – and change them often. In a business, this means instructing your employees on safe practices if they are in a position that deals with your finances online or through paper. At home or at the office, be careful not to save your passwords on your computer or, worse, smartphone. Don’t write them down and keep them in your desk drawer or in a note book. You don’t want to give a potential thief access to your balances and your accounts with an easy push of the button. Continue reading
Paper – We Use Lots of It!
Paper – it’s everywhere. There are 24 billion newspapers published every year. Add 2 billion books and 350 million magazines. The average office uses 10,000 sheets of paper in a year. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper in that year. It works out to every person in the United States using 700 pounds of paper yearly. Put it all together and paper takes up as much as 40% of landfill space. The good news is that paper can be recycled as many as 7 times – being used and reused.
Old Paper Becomes New
What happens when you recycle? The recycled paper is mixed with water and chemicals and broken down. Then, it’s heated and chopped. It finally becomes stands of cellulose or pulp. Paper manufactures can mix this recycled product with pulp that comes from trees to make new paper. Each type of paper becomes something different. Your old newspaper could come back as a new edition in the future or it might become a paper plate. It could even be used to make sheetrock or kitty litter. A magazine may return as the daily newspaper or as paperboard. A cardboard box could be made into a new box or a paper bag. White paper is the most valuable as it could come back as itself – bleached and cleaned and ready to go in the printer one more time. Continue reading
You can save money. You have help the environment. You can save a tree. Trees make oxygen, appropriate carbon, fix nitrogen, and distill water. They use solar energy as fuel and may produce complex sugars and food. Using less paper is good for your budget, the environment and you can save a tree! Here are 6 ways to decrease your paper use.
1. Use your Computer. It can save paper both at home and in the office. You can go paperless with your bills, pay a bill or set up automatic payments. There are advantages beyond saving paper – you can access your account at any time to track spending, see credit card charges in real time and monitor your accounts for misuse.
2. Ask if You need a Hard Copy. This is especially true for offices. An electronic document is easy to send, easy to edit and makes it possible for various employees to add their ideas to the document. You probably don’t need to print until you get to the final document – and you may not need to print then. At home, an email is immediate so you get to your recipient quicker. You can send birthday cards – complete with gift cards. You save paper and you save postage. Continue reading
Handling documents correctly is important to the success of your business. Here are 3 reasons to put controls in place and 3 risks you take if you don’t have a process for document handling and storage in place – plus, a process you can use.
The Reasons Why
• Your Employee Efficiency. It’s a fact. The average worker spends about 10% of their average day trying to find information and documents that exist. That’s like losing 10% of the salaries you pay them. Plus, it may mean that a customer or client is waiting for an answer while the search continues. Continue reading
You own a business or you’re one of the key decisions makers. Here are 5 reasons that taking shredding seriously and why doing it responsibility is good for you and your business.
1. Peace of Mind. If you have a process to handle sensitive documents – from meeting minutes that contain financial or future plans to customer information, shredding takes the worry out of it getting into the wrong hands. Whether it’s a disgruntled employee who would love to share your plans with a competitor or an identity thief who compromises your customer information, these are big problems. You can avoid them with a good process to protect information and responsible shredding.
2. Compliance. Your business may be governed by national, state or local governments that dictate how sensitive information should be destroyed. It may even regulate the size of the shreds. You don’t want a fine or the bad publicity when you don’t follow these regulations – like when medical records that fell under HIPPA requirements turned up in a local dump instead of being destroyed. Being responsible about shredding will mean staying in compliance with all regulations. Continue reading
What’s it like to lose your business identity to identity theft? It’s costly to start with – in fact, so costly that some businesses fail. Here is the story of what happened to one small business as reported by NBCnews.com. The company lost their identity, but found out quickly enough to escape. It’s a warning for businesses everywhere.
• What was Found: T-Data did not accept credit cards. They’d been in business for 20 years and never had. Yet, the owner, Jeff Duhl, was checking his mail and discovered over $15,000 in credit card charges that his store appeared to have accepted.
• The Setup: The identity thief had been busy – and clever. The thief created a fraudulent T-Data company – complete with a very realistic website. Next, he or she secured the services of merchant processing providers. These are the companies that transfer money from a credit card purchase into a business’s account. All in all, they set up seven different accounts with different processing companies. The business bank accounts where these companies deposited the credit card monies belonged to the identity thieves and were unrelated to the real T-Data. The fact that T-Data had never accepted credit cards worked against them. After all, to the processers, they were a new account. Continue reading
You may think it’s just a matter of untangling the mess – difficult but doable. However, you may face consequences far beyond just letting everyone know that it really wasn’t you or your business. Here are 5 of the toughest consequences you could face.
1. You Can’t Pay Your Bills – or Your Employees. If money has been taken out of your banking account or if you lose business because of the theft, you may find that you can’t continue business as usual. You may have to implement layoffs. You might have to cut purchases and expenses across the board. You may end up incurring personal losses if you are forced to use your personal assets, savings or credit to try and save your business.
2. You may be Responsible Personally. Many business agreements from loans to credit cards and lines of credit require a personal guarantee. If the business can’t pay these debts, the person – the owner – become personally responsible for them. The situation can be bleak – the business may not be operating at a profit because of the identity theft so the owner is facing the lack of income and the creditors at the same time. Continue reading
Is your business’s safe from fraudulent losses? Here are 4 ways fraud is committed. Every small business’s owners should know about them and take steps that their business doesn’t suffer losses.
1. Payroll Fraud: In one case, employees filed time sheets – with lots of overtime – for two different jobs that were 50 miles apart. Amazing that these employees could put in overtime at these two different sites and, maybe, more amazing that it wasn’t discovered until the payroll account was given to a new company. The loss was $80,000 but only 4% of the payroll so it didn’t raise an immediate flag. Protect yourself – reconcile all balance sheet accounts and payroll records on a monthly basis – or, hire someone to do it for you.
2. Double Check Fraud: A bookkeeper writes a check for widgets for $500 and then writes one to his or herself for $100. Same company, same day so on the financial statements – which were reviewed frequently – the amounts paid for widgets looked a bit high, but not enough to be a concern. The double check fraud was found when the bookkeeper got sick and a replacement noticed that the bank accounts weren’t reconciled. Once the reconciliation started, the embezzlement became clear. It had gone on for years and amounted to over a half million dollars. Protect yourself two ways – make sure that the person that writes check isn’t the person to reconcile the accounts. You need two people. Hire someone to review the books and reconciliations at least once a year – and have them come at random times so the books can’t be prepared in advance. Continue reading
You’ve been meaning to get around to it. You want to make your office more organized and more efficient. But, here it is the beginning of the 2nd quarter and you haven’t quite gotten around to doing it. Tax time is over and that makes it a great time to get more organized. Here are 5 tips.
1. Talk to an Expert. You’ve probably used an accounting firm or CPA to prepare your taxes. Go back. Make another appointment and discuss the future. Have you done everything needed to protect your personal assets. Could you gain benefits from forming an LLC or corporation? Review your business plan and see if the structure is the best for the future of your company.
2. Clear Out the Office. Do you have a stash of outdated or broken electronics stashed in a closet? Donate them. Is your email box full? Delete and organize. Ditto for your answering machine. Use the rule for cleaning closets – if you have something that you haven’t used in the past year, toss it. It’s easy to put things aside thinking you might need them, but if you haven’t found that need, it’s time to clean up! Continue reading
The things you have to do – the things you don’t think twice about – could be the path for your business’s ID to be stolen. Here are 3 ways filings and registrations can be used by a business identity thief.
1. Good Faith Business Registration: In most states, the Secretary of State does not investigate or confirm the information in a business filing. They are charged to accept them in good faith. Of course, there’s a place where you sign to say that all the information is true under the penalty of a perjury. Seriously, if a crook is thinking about fraudulently using the good name, good financial standing and good credit of your business, do you think that one line is going to stop him or her from filing a falsified registration in the name of your business? These criminals will take over your identity by filing a business registration in your business’s name or changing the information on your registration. Your good credit is their good credit. They can act in your name because they’ve changed the business location or, even, listed themselves as a principal. They can buy things in your name or get credit in your name. Your business will eventually get the bills. When you’ve filed and checked that filing, that doesn’t mean you’re safe. For a filing fee of as little as $10 your information can be amended so check regularly. Continue reading