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Protect Your Business Identity Like It Was Your Own!

Most small business owners start out their venture on a wing, a prayer, and their personal credit. It takes quite a while to build a business to the point that the company has a credit reputation of its own and a personal guarantee from the principals is no longer required by a lender. In the meantime, what affects the owner's credit also affects the business's credit and vice versa.

Diligence is required by the business owner as the protections afforded to consumers are frequently not available to small businesses. For example, when someone makes a fraudulent purchase out of your personal bank account (or uses your credit or debit card without authorization) you have at least 30 days (some banks allow up to 90 days) to report, and get credit for, the transaction. If it happens to your business account, you must refute it within 10 days or the charge stands.

Bob is a house painter. He owns Cool Dude Painters; in 2009 he marked 15 years in the business. He has worked hard to get the business to where it will support himself and three other guys. One day in early 2009, when Bob went into his paint supplier, Red's Painter Goods, to get some specialty items, he was asked to fill out a form so his information could be entered into the new computer-controlled inventory and account system. "Finally!" he thought, "enough of the hand-written order forms!" He quickly filled out the information and let the clerk take a copy of his driver's license.

About 6 months later, he got a call from ABC Supply about an overdue bill. Puzzled, he made a note to call the next day to get the issue straightened out. Bob knows that his business depends on ordering supplies in advance and paying when the job finishes and highly values his good reputation. Then he got a call from the owner of R&N Paint Supply who sounded more than irritated about an overdue invoice. The paint supply company owner told Bob that the only reason he had allowed the bill to get so big and go so long without payment was because of Bob's reputation as a "square" guy. He said he wanted to keep Bob as a customer, but he could not afford to carry such a big account any longer without payment. He got angry when Bob denied knowing anything about the account and demanded payment immediately. Bob certainly was not going to just pay a bill because someone called up and said he owed them money.

A few weeks later Bob received a call from a man who identified himself as the attorney for R&N Paint Supply and he demanded payment in full of the $150,000 balance owed. Bob was stunned. He thought about calling his own attorney, but didn't because he thought the whole thing was just a mistake. How could he owe money to someone he'd never done business with? A few days after the attorney's call he received a large package in the mail; it contained copies of invoices and order sheets from R&N Paint Supply that dated from early 2009 and showed large quantities of paint and other supplies being shipped to various job sites around town. Everything had been ordered in Bob's name and the account application showed Bob's information, except the mailing address and phone number were different. When the attorney's office called a second time and when Bob tried to convince him that the account was not his, he was less than successful. When questioned, he had to admit that the information on the account application was his. There was no satisfactorily explanation for how the account had been opened if he had not done it himself. Ultimately, both ABC Supply and R&N Paint Supply won judgments against Bob personally for a total of $210,000 plus court costs and attorneys' fees. Bob borrowed $20,000 against the equity in his house, sold his painting business and equipment, and is currently paying on the debt created by the judgment to the tune of $1000 each month. Bob currently works two jobs in an attempt to keep up with the payments, but he may file for bankruptcy.
No one knows exactly what happened, but Bob suspects the clerk at Red's Painter Goods took his information and opened the accounts to support his own house painting business, but there is no proof.

The best solution is to get the most powerful business and personal protection available and allow the experts to work the problem.

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About the Author

Susan Whitchurch, Premier Solutions International
PO Box 33445
Denver, CO 80233

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