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
Paper – it’s unending. And, much of it has sensitive information on it. It may contain your business plan, meeting minutes and information on customers or employees. It may have enough information for a business identity thief to compromise your bank accounts, your good credit and your good name. One way to fight back is to hire onsite shredding. Here are 6 reasons why contracting for onsite shredding is a smart move.
1. It Gives You Everything You Need – including locked bins that will hold all sensitive papers until they are shredded. One of the weak links in your security chain is where papers are held until they are destroyed. On the corner of a desk or in a stack in the mailroom? Those are not secure locations. An onsite shredding company makes it easy for employees to drop the papers into that locked bin so from the minute they are no longer needed, they are safe.
2. A Paper Shredding Employee is Not a Profit Center. First of all, to buy a shredder that can really handle the load is very expensive. And, when that employee starts to shred and then has to wait for the shredder to cool down before starting again – repeat and repeat — that employee is not earning any profit for your company. In fact, that person may be one of the highest paid paper shredders in town. Continue reading
Business identity theft is on the rise. It is a real concern. Losses are often in the mid-six figures. It’s enough to put many businesses out of business. Here are 6 reasons why identity thieves are turning to businesses for a profit.
1. There’s More Money in the Bank. Business have larger bank accounts than most individuals. A thief can expect to have anywhere from $5000 to $10000 available in the bank account of a small business – large businesses may have accounts in the hundreds of thousands.
2. It’s Easier to Get Credit. It’s easier to open a checking account. Business accounts are sought after by other businesses, banks and credit card companies. They are less likely to ask many questions. Your EIN number may be all a thief needs. And, when they open that credit account, it’s going to have a higher limit than a personal account. Continue reading
How to use SHRED from the ID Theft Resource Center to stay safe – with some additional ideas to make you safe and make it the right for businesses, too.
Strengthen passwords: For everyone, passwords should be at least 8 characters (many websites require this). They should be a combination of capital and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. They should be changed on a regular basis. For businesses: Follow all the above. Make sure that employees know the importance of guarding passwords. Establish a timeline for changing those passwords. Consider encryption for sensitive information. Continue reading
A business has a lot to lose — their good credit, their good reputation, their money! Here are 5 things every business should know about the what’s and why’s of business identity theft.
1. Business identity theft takes different forms. Identity theft is when a thief acts as if he or she is the business. It is the “impersonation” of the business’s identity and involves the misuse of the legal filings and credentials. It can include opening credit cards or applying for credit in the business’s name. It can include the manipulation of your business’s filings and records. For example, a “new location” may be opened in the name of your business or the legal address of your business can be changed. Purchases can be made in the name of your business. The impact can be far-reaching and very expensive. Continue reading
It’s almost like hoarding. You add a file cabinet so you can keep more documents in that storage room. Instead, here are 6 good reasons to consider offsite storage.
1. You Create a Better Work Environment. Moving document storage offsite means creating more room onsite. You are more able to provide a clean, organized workspace for your employees. You make filing things and finding things easier and your business becomes more efficient. Plus, you get a bonus of happier employees.
2. Take a Look. One of the additional advantage of offsite storage is that you have to decide. You’ll review documents to decide what to store and what to shred. You’ll get a review of your business along the way. You’ll be more aware of how to handle information in the future. Continue reading