Connect with us

Business Software

How Identity Theft Can Stop You & Your Business in Its Tracks

Published

on

A lot of people think identity theft won’t happen to them. But it’s a real threat that’s gotten worse in recent years, and one you—and your business—can’t afford to ignore.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when someone uses your personal or financial information to pose as you so they can make purchases, open financial accounts, and commit other kinds of fraud that benefit them.

Identity theft can take numerous forms—over thirty —that can make your life a misery.

Bad actors can open loans and credit cards in your name, file taxes and receive refunds, or obtain medical services in your name, just to name a few.

And it’s a growing problem.

In 2020, 47 percent of US consumers experienced identity theft; 37 percent experienced application fraud (the unauthorized use of one’s identity to apply for an account), and 38 percent experienced account takeover (unauthorized access to an existing account).

Losses from identity theft cases cost $502.5 billion in 2019 and increased 42 percent to $712.4 billion in 2020!

This massive increase was due to changes in the way people banked during the pandemic (online, at home), as well as an increase in remote lending by banking institutions.

Don’t Ignore the Threat of Identity Theft

To be honest, we haven’t talked much about identity theft before here at SPI. And you might be thinking, what does identity theft have to do with starting and growing a business?

A lot, in fact.

You see, if caught early, identity theft can be manageable. But if not, resolving it can take years to stop the fraud, undo the damage, and restore your identity and credit.

This can obviously be incredibly damaging if you’re trying to grow a business. The time, energy, and money going toward addressing identity theft is not being spent on building your business.

The bottom line: this is not a threat that you—or your business—can ignore.

What To Do Right Away If Your Identity Is Stolen

What should you do as soon as you find you’ve been the victim of identity theft? There are several steps you should take right away.

Step 1: Contact the Companies Involved

Call the companies where you know fraud has occurred. Explain that someone stole your identity, and ask them to close or freeze your accounts. Then, change the logins, passwords, and PINs for your accounts.

Step 2: Contact the Credit Bureaus

Place a free fraud alert with one of the three credit bureaus, and get your credit reports.

You can contact any of the three bureaus; that company must tell the other two:

You should also get a copy of your free credit reports from each of the three bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.

Review your reports, and make note of any account or transaction you don’t recognize. This will help you report the theft to the FTC and the police.

Step 3: Report Identity Theft to the FTC

Next, file a police report with your local police department. You should also report your identity theft at IdentityTheft.gov, a one-stop resource the federal government created for identity theft victims. Enter as much information as you can, and the site will help you create a recovery plan.

Be Proactive—Stop Identity Theft Before It Happens

It’s crucial to know what to do in the immediate aftermath of identity theft. But there’s more you can do proactively to make sure it doesn’t sabotage your life or cripple your business.

That’s where an identity theft protection service comes in.

This post was originally published on this site

Continue Reading

Business Software

Why Do Payment Processors Freeze Accounts?

Published

on

When a payment processor freezes your account, everything stops: You can no longer process credit cards and or access settlement funds until the freeze is resolved. These disruptive freezes can be triggered by transaction patterns that appear suspicious, such as higher-than-average transaction amounts or frequent chargebacks. You can typically get these freezes resolved by providing any information your processor requests — but you’ll also want to figure out what went wrong so you can avoid ending up in the same situation again.

Here’s what to know about frozen accounts, what can trigger freezes and how to avoid them in the future.

Payment processors’ responsibilities

Payment processors must comply with credit card network operating regulations and federal law, which put them on the hook for certain unauthorized charges on stolen credit cards, money laundering schemes and other types of fraud. Allowing fraudulent transactions to go through can result in violations and fines for processors.

“We don’t have any flexibility on what we are required to uphold,” says Angie Dobbs, vice president of risk and fraud with Wave, a payment processing company. “Sometimes if we detect something that’s off, it’s actually our requirement to protect our business, to protect our customers and to meet the regulations that are set forth by U.S. and Canadian regulatory bodies, the banks and networks.”

A frozen account doesn’t mean the processor has determined you’re at fault; they’re just pausing transactions to investigate what’s going on.

“We know how scary it is when we have to reach out and say we’re holding your funds until we feel that it’s safe to proceed,” Dobbs says. “It’s a really difficult conversation to have.”

What payment processors are looking for

Customer fraud

Customer fraud can occur at various stages of the payment process. A few examples of how consumers defraud merchants include:

  • Using stolen credit card information to make a purchase.

  • Testing a list of stolen credit card numbers on a merchant’s website to see which are approved and still usable, costing the merchant money in processing fees.

  • Requiring a merchant to open an account with a specific payment processor to process a large amount on what turns out to be a stolen credit card.

Merchant fraud

Merchant fraud occurs when fraudsters open payment processing accounts with the intention to process illegal transactions or violate processor agreements. This can happen when a merchant:

  • Sets up an account under a stolen identity to avoid being identified.

  • Sets up illegitimate storefronts to accept payments but never fulfill orders.

  • Opens a payment processing account for a low-risk business while actually running a high-risk business.

Because some merchants are able to create accounts with fraudulent information and get through the onboarding process, payment processors continue to monitor activity after approval for any red flags that pop up when transactions are being processed. Each new transaction provides new data for them to analyze for potentially fraudulent behavior, says Dobbs.

This is why you might make it through the onboarding process and be approved for an account but be flagged for investigation after you begin accepting transactions. It’s not that the payment processor changed its mind about your approval — it’s more likely that something about those first transactions flagged its system and it wants to ensure no one, you included, is being scammed.

Why your business might have its account frozen

Your activity resembles that of a fake merchant

Merchant fraud occurs when a fraudster opens a merchant account using a fake identity. Because they’ve already developed credit with the identity and are able to answer all of the payment processor’s verification questions, a processor assumes the merchant is legitimate. However, fraudsters can use these merchant accounts to process stolen credit card numbers and run transactions that don’t fit the business model they were approved to operate.

Your transaction amounts are too high

Payment processors expect businesses to process transactions within certain price ranges, depending on the industry or types of products a business is selling. If a business begins processing transactions that are higher than that of the average business within the given industry, this can be a sign of a business either selling a different product than it originally applied to sell or processing stolen payment methods.

Your transaction details aren’t adding up

Processors are constantly looking for activity that doesn’t fit the template of an average consumer. For example, if you’re processing transactions on multiple credit cards with the same physical address, there’s a high chance that the credit cards are stolen. The payment processor might freeze your account while it investigates the charges to determine if they are legitimate and to ensure that you aren’t involved in fraudulent activity.

You’re getting a lot of chargebacks

A business that is constantly getting chargebacks is a liability for payment processors. Because consumers can request a chargeback as much as 60 days after a transaction — and up to 120 days in some cases — processors see frequent chargebacks as a signal that something isn’t quite right and want to hit pause on transactions until they can figure out why a company is having so much trouble.

How to avoid having your account frozen

While small businesses can’t avoid fraud altogether, they can implement practices and take steps to ensure they are on the same page as their payment processors to minimize the risk of having their accounts frozen.

Make your e-commerce checkout more secure

If possible, use any fraud tools that are available through the e-commerce platforms you already pay for, such as having a code texted to a cell phone or a temporary password sent to an email address, says Kimberly Sutherland, vice president of fraud and identity strategy at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a technology company that focuses on reducing risk. “Being able to link that transaction back to a user is the way that a lot of businesses try to reduce some of that risk,” she says.

Don’t process a transaction larger than your limit

If your processor places a limit on how much you can process in one transaction, don’t try to process a larger amount. If your business will be regularly processing more than your transaction limit, talk with your processor about increasing your limit.

Notify your processor in advance of large transactions

Letting your payment processor know in advance that you’ll be processing a transaction that’s larger than your usual amount gives it time to ask questions and verify information. By being proactive, you lessen the chance that your processor is going to flag your account for suspicious activity, says Dobbs.

Try to spot potential fraud before accepting payments

Some fraudulent customers will try to get away with multiple purchases if they can. Look for red flags before you accept payments. “Are you seeing the same device come across with multiple payment instruments or the same address is being used across multiple payment types?” asks Sutherland. “Being able to really pay more attention to the frequency of that identity appearing or aspects of that identity appearing is a really effective approach.”

Reduce chargebacks

You can’t avoid all chargebacks because some of them might be legitimate, like when a customer’s credit card number has been stolen and used at your business. But minimizing the frequency of chargebacks can potentially avoid a sudden freeze on your account. You can reduce chargebacks by offering return policies, responsive customer support and clear information about when items are shipped and delivered.

Advertisement

This post was originally published on this site

Continue Reading

Business Software

How Small Businesses Can Benefit From Automation

Published

on

Small businesses need to take advantage of every edge they can get. Most do not have a labor force or resources that can compete with their competitors. This is where automation can come in to help many small business owners.

With modern automation systems, you can take a lot of tasks off your workload or off the schedule of your employees. This will allow you and your employees to focus on the critical work that requires the attention of a human.

photo credit: Mikhail Nilov / Pexels

Many small business owners are reluctant to work with automation solutions. They think automation is only for big corporations with a lot of money. While that may have been true in the past, there are affordable automation solutions for small businesses.

For those who may be wondering if they should start automating processes at their businesses, the following are some of the benefits of automation.

Reduce Costs

You have many business processes that do not require the attention of a human. These tasks tend to be tedious and necessary, but they usually do not generate value. In many cases, business owners need to hire employees just to do these tasks.

With the right automation software, you can save on the labor costs that go into this type of work. That means either you could cut the hours of the employees who do this work, or you could shift their focus to matters that may offer more value to the business.

Improve Customer Relations

Small businesses can do a lot to improve the customer experience with automation. Automation can be deployed to help customers as they use your products or services. It can also work as a tool to help your business serve customers better. One example is automating parts of the customer support experience.

Developing a chatbot to handle simple customer inquiries can be a way to make the experience better. With a chatbot handling many of the requests, customers can get support without having to wait, and your human support professionals will be able to focus on the issues that are too complicated for the bots.

Increase Productivity

Automation solutions excel at taking on simple, repetitive tasks. These tasks might need to be done, but they take time. When you can automate these tasks, your employees won’t have to do them, and it will make your team more productive.

Tasks involved in billing and invoicing are a good example. Many of these processes can be automated so salespeople don’t have to do them. This can give salespeople more time to focus on the parts of the job that are vital to selling.

Marketing team using marketing automation platform

Enhanced Marketing

Marketing automation can do a lot to help small businesses. There is a lot you can do to automate tasks and connect with customers with modern online marketing.

One example is email marketing. You can now automate emails that get sent to customers in response to different events. If they put a product in their online shopping cart but don’t make a purchase, you can automate emails to remind them of the product. You can also automate much of your social media activity to raise awareness and engage with customers.

Fewer Errors

While many of these tasks are simple, they are also tasks that tend to have high error rates. When people perform simple tasks for long enough, it is easy to make small mistakes.

One example is data entry. A small mistake can make a big difference in the dataset. Even once you know it is there, finding the mistake will be time-consuming. With automation software doing the work, most of these mistakes can be eliminated. This will ensure the work is done accurately, and it can save the costs that may come with some mistakes.

Make Better Decisions

Some advanced automation systems can help small businesses make better decisions. With business intelligence solutions that use AI and machine learning, you can get automated insights from your data.

Many of these systems can even automate the process of creating reports and visualizations. This can be valuable because small businesses can use these analytics solutions to inform their decisions without investing as much in an entire data analytics department.

Businessman is using workflow automation solution for running his service business

Improved Workflows

Automation can also be used to keep the work moving smoothly. Many workflows have small steps that need to be taken for a process to be completed. These small steps can take time, or they might get overlooked.

Automation systems can work to take on some of these smaller tasks to keep the workflow moving. If the task is too complex for automation, a system could be programmed to monitor the workflow. If a step is missing or it appears someone forgot to do something, the system could automate reminders to keep the processes moving.

Automation can be beneficial to a variety of small businesses. With that said, you have many options for automation software. Business owners should take the time to learn about their options. You might need to work with software consulting services to find the right solutions.

This post was originally published on this site

Continue Reading

Business Software

QuickBooks for Nonprofits: Costs, Pros and Cons, Alternatives

Published

on

QuickBooks for Nonprofits, a line of accounting software for small to midsize nonprofit organizations, features nonprofit editions of QuickBooks products with donation tracking, bookkeeping, invoicing and other accounting functions. In addition, QuickBooks offers discounted products for nonprofits through TechSoup for both nonprofit and other editions of the software, a great deal for organizations with a tight budget. In this review, the term “QuickBooks for Nonprofits” will refer to nonprofit editions of QuickBooks Premier.

Compared to other accounting software for nonprofits, QuickBooks is simple, though it may initially take some time to learn. Nonprofits can choose to either use QuickBooks Premier Desktop (which comes in nonprofit editions) or QuickBooks Online, depending on their needs. QuickBooks Online makes it easy to give the volunteers who help with accounting functions access only to the QuickBooks features they need. And if you do need professional help with your accounting, it is easy to find an accountant who is familiar with QuickBooks products.

Deciding factors

Note: QuickBooks has adopted a subscription model for Premier products starting with QuickBooks Premier 2022. Pricing for QuickBooks Premier 2022 is not currently available through TechSoup. Pricing does not include any add-on features, such as payroll or applications.

QuickBooks Online Plus (5 users, 1-year subscription): $75 through TechSoup.

QuickBooks Online Advanced (25 users, 1-year subscription): $160 through TechSoup.

QuickBooks Premier 2021 (desktop, 1 user): $78 through TechSoup.

QuickBooks Premier 2021 (desktop, 3 users): $168 through TechSoup.

QuickBooks Enterprise Nonprofit (desktop, scales to up to 30 users): starting at $130/month through QuickBooks.

Maximum number of users

Varies by product.

Ease of sharing with accountants

Excellent. QuickBooks Online users can invite their accountants to access their QuickBooks information directly. QuickBooks Premier and Enterprise users can send an accountant’s copy or use a shared server to share data with their accountants.

Scalability

Excellent. Upgrades are available for each QuickBooks product, either directly or in the form of add-on applications.

Ease of use

Good. QuickBooks products require some training, but support is easy to find.

How does QuickBooks for Nonprofits work?

As with other QuickBooks products, QuickBooks for Nonprofits requires users to enter transactions using familiar-looking forms (invoices, bills, checks, etc.). The accounting happens in the background. It makes it easier for employees and volunteers who are not accountants to assist your nonprofit with some bookkeeping.

Overall, QuickBooks for Nonprofits really shines when it comes to fund accounting and reporting. Even though the nonprofit editions work in much the same way as other QuickBooks products, the back-end setup for nonprofits ensures your books are kept — and reporting is done — in compliance with best practices for nonprofit organizations. You can customize, save and automate the delivery of the reports your board of directors and donors need. And perhaps most importantly, it can help you organize the information you need each year to file your Form 990, the “return of organizations exempt from income tax” document that provides public financial information about the organization.

QuickBooks discounts for nonprofits

QuickBooks partnered with nonprofit tech marketplace TechSoup to offer discounted software and subscriptions to nonprofit organizations.

Of the options, the QuickBooks Online Plus options don’t come with a nonprofit edition but can be used for nonprofit work:

  • QuickBooks Online Plus (5 users, 1-year subscription): $75 through TechSoup.

  • QuickBooks Online Advanced (25 users, 1-year subscription): $160 through TechSoup.

The desktop versions do have nonprofit editions:

  • QuickBooks Premier 2021 (desktop, includes nonprofit edition, 1 user): $78 through TechSoup.

  • QuickBooks Premier 2021 (desktop, includes nonprofit edition, 3 users): $168 through TechSoup.

  • QuickBooks Enterprise Nonprofit (desktop, scales to up to 30 users): starting at $130 a month through QuickBooks.

It’s important to note that, starting with QuickBooks Premier Desktop 2022, Intuit has adopted a subscription-based model. A discounted subscription for QuickBooks Premier is not yet available through TechSoup. Suppose your nonprofit needs features beyond basic accounting — including payroll, customer support and data backups — and you want to use a desktop version of QuickBooks. In that case, your pricing will be as follows:

QuickBooks Premier Plus (annual subscription; nonprofit version available)

  • One user: $549.99.

  • Two users: $849.99.

  • Three users: $1,149.99.

  • Four users: $1,449.99.

  • Five users: $1,749.99.

QuickBooks Enterprise Nonprofit

  • Starts at $130 a month.

QuickBooks Enterprise Nonprofit is a robust platform suitable for larger nonprofit organizations. Small to midsize nonprofits will be best served by QuickBooks Premier, QuickBooks Premier Plus or one of the QuickBooks Online options.

Benefits of QuickBooks for Nonprofits

Easy to find support

Most professional accountants and bookkeepers — and many business owners — are familiar with QuickBooks products. So whether you need an accountant’s help or want to enlist the support of your volunteer team for bookkeeping, you likely will be able to find people who can support you.

Scalability

It’s easy to start with a smaller QuickBooks product (like QuickBooks Premier) and convert to a more robust product (like QuickBooks Enterprise Nonprofit) as your nonprofit grows. This helps you better budget your nonprofit’s technology dollars. You can also customize your nonprofit’s accounting and fundraising functions using the various add-on applications available.

Drawbacks of QuickBooks for Nonprofits

Price

The biggest drawback of using QuickBooks for Nonprofits is the price. If your nonprofit’s accounting needs are basic, the discounts available through TechSoup can offset much of the cost. If, however, you need more than what’s available through TechSoup, you could easily spend much more for QuickBooks than for other nonprofit accounting software.

Alternatives to QuickBooks for Nonprofits

For small organizations: Aplos Accounting

Unlike QuickBooks, Aplos was explicitly designed for nonprofits. As a result, it is especially suited for churches and small nonprofit organizations.

Aplos includes:

  • Fund accounting functionality.

  • The ability to accept donations online.

  • Donor management.

  • Email marketing.

The price for Aplos is perfect for nonprofits, too. Pricing ranges from $59 to $79 a month for most users. Customization starts at $179 a month if you need advanced accounting solutions.

For large organizations: Blackbaud Financial Edge

Blackbaud is the gold standard for nonprofit accounting and management. Its module-based system lets you choose the right solutions for your nonprofit organization.

Financial Edge by Blackbaud is a cloud-based fund accounting solution. Like all of Blackbaud’s products, it was designed specifically for nonprofits.

Financial Edge provides all the features you would expect from enterprise-level software, plus some:

  • Fully compliant fund accounting.

  • Financial planning and analysis, including budgeting and reporting compliant with the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

  • Grant accounting and administration.

  • When paired with Raiser’s Edge, Blackbaud’s donor management solution, you have fully functioning enterprise resource planning for your nonprofit.

As you might expect of a software company with customizable products, Blackbaud does not publish its pricing. Instead, it provides a custom demo and quote based on your nonprofit’s needs.

Advertisement

This post was originally published on this site

Continue Reading

Trending

SmallBiz Newsletter

Join our newsletter for the latest information, news and products that are vital to running a successful SmallBiz.