Better Business

Robb Hicken: How to guard your business’s identity

ROBB HICKEN, chief storyteller for the Better Business Bureau serving the Snake River RegionOctober 22, 2013 

Robb Hicken

Boise resident Gloria Marley's letter included a check from Managecast Technologie of Ohio. The scam she'd received was for a secret shopper, but its consequences were felt on the company whose check was stolen.

The affected company was Managecast Technologies (note the 's' on the real company name), an information technology company operating in Milford, Ohio. The check, for $1,970, was dropped off at Better Business Bureau offices in Boise along with a question about its legitimacy.

"The scam checks don't have the same watermarks and security marks our real checks do, nor is the company name correctly printed," says Nathan Golden, owner of Managecast Technologies Inc.

He says a real check was stolen from the U.S. mail, and as soon as accounting discovered the theft, the account was shut down.

"We actually haven't lost any checks, and I want to make it clear it wasn't some sort of negligence on our part," he says. "We did nothing to cause this scam, including 'losing' checks. We are not involved in this at all."

He says Managecast Technologies is a bigger victim in this scam. The disruptive flow of calls - mostly from people wanting his company to make good on the check - occupies a large part of his receptionist's time.

"We get many, many calls a day from other people who are receiving these checks," he says. "It's not just your region; we've had people from across multiple states calling us."

Managecast Technologies' accounting department caught the problem because of procedures in place.

Here's a list of questions you should be asking:

• How are your blank checks safeguarded?

• Who has access to them?

• What kind of internal controls do you have in place?

•What procedures do you have to identify the potential for stolen checks?

• What steps would you take after learning of stolen checks?

Guard your business identity as closely as your personal identity. If you don't have a regular professional shredding service, be sure you invest in a quality crosscut shredder and shred all unnecessary materials listing your business name and any identification or account numbers.

Teach your employees to never give out account information or even first names of employees without permission from management. One trick scammers frequently use is to say authoritatively, "Can you just verify your account information for security purposes?"

Another favorite trick to obtain personnel names is to say, "Your accounts payable person … I can't remember the name … said it was OK." The natural human reaction is to fill in the blank and supply the name. That makes it easy for the scammer to call back with a name and title to request account or financial information.

Avoid using the word yes. Instead, substitute it with "correct" or "incorrect."

Check your financial statements regularly to monitor check withdrawals. Scammers are getting more and more sophisticated when it comes to copying business checks, including watermarks. Make sure that all checks drawn against your account were actually issued by your business. Notify your bank immediately if there are any discrepancies.

rhicken@boise.bbb.org, 947-2115

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