Laptop Features to Consider For Small Businesses

The following is an excerpt from our eBook, “How to Start a Lucrative Virtual Bookkeeping Business.”

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One of the things I see a lot of when it comes to bookkeeping is laptops…lots of laptops.  Some work incredibly well (whether for bookkeeping or anything else) while others work horribly.  Thus, I have compiled a list of features to consider when shopping for any laptop, whether for bookkeeping alone, or for business in general.

(If you have any further recommendations, please leave them in the comments so that other readers will know what to consider.)

  1. Must-Have Features For Your Bookkeeping Laptop:
    • A DVD Burner:  Don’t be cheap and skip the DVD burner in lieu of a CD Burner; they are not the same thing.  CD’s can only burn a fraction of the information a DVD can burn, and you will want to give your clients DVDs when you back up their work.
    • An SD Card Slot:  This will come in handy whenever you need to transfer digital files from a camera to your computer.  Although it may not make much sense now, you’ll be glad you have it later.
    • Bluetooth Access:  It just comes in handy.
    • Wireless Access: You will want to be able to get on the Internet anywhere, especially coffee shops.  In fact, you may even consider signing up for a monthly service from AT&T or Sprint so that you can get Internet access from the middle of a field, if you so chose.
  2. Optional Features For Your Laptop To Consider:
    • A 10-Key Keyboard:  The reason I have NOT made this a “Must-Have” feature is because this is actually a “Preference” choice more than anything.  Yes, it can be incredibly handy to have your 10-Key right on your keyboard when you open your laptop, but the problem is, a Laptop with a 10-Key Keyboard is a very heavy laptop.  It can add an extra 5 to 10 pounds of weight, and it can add a couple hundred dollars to the price tag.  If you buy this kind of laptop, you will also probably end up investing in a bag with wheels just to tote the thing around.  So now, you have a heavy laptop with a heavy AND bulky bag that you have to schlep from house to car to office and back.  On the other hand, you can buy a 10-Key Keypad that plugs directly into your laptop for a cost of $10 to $20, or a Bluetooth 10-Key Keypad for $30 to $40.  These are compact, lightweight, and can fit right in the pocket of any computer bag.  On top of that, you can buy a computer that weighs as little as five pounds, and now taking your computer with you is no longer a hassle.  So, make the decision for yourself on how important that 10-Key is before you buy a laptop.  (Notice, the Kensington keypad-with-calculator to the left has a calculator screen on it as well, which allows you to quickly tally numbers without having to access your computer.)
    • LightScribe Burner:  If you’ve never seen a Burnt LightScribe CD or DVD, you are missing out.  This feature allows you to burn any picture or text on the top of a certain type of CD and DVD, and can really give you (and your business) a very professional image.  Imagine giving your clients a Backup Disc with their Company Name, Logo and date on it.  You will convince your Clients you spend a lot of time and money to produce high-quality products, even when you don’t.  This feature does not come standard on all laptops, but is usually only $25 more if you’re buying a “custom computer.”  So, if you want to give an appearance of being Professional and “Tech-Savvy,” add this feature…you won’t regret it.  (Because quite frankly, if you’re not doing it now, your competitors will be doing it soon.)
  3. My Laptop Recommendations:

 

  1. AVOID AT ALL COSTS:  One of the benefits about being an Independent Bookkeeper is that you see a LOT of computers.  As such, I would NEVER recommend a Compaq (even though it’s made by HP) or a Gateway.  I’ve seen major issues with Compaqs, and I’ve heard Gateway has the worst customer service when a problem arises (this from a very computer savvy person).  Acers are super-cheap options, but there’s a reason for that…they won’t work well with a whole lot of business programs.  The IBMs I’ve seen have been heavy, awkward and incredibly expensive, but aren’t really any fancier than a Toshiba.  Dells are great because they’re inexpensive, you can customize them, and they have decent customer service, but I’ve seen more Dells freeze up than not and then you have to do a “hard reboot.”  But again, your laptop choice is always a preference thing.
  2. ALSO AVOID: Mini Netbooks.  While Netbooks are a fabulous deal price-wise, they are not good choices for a business.  For one thing, the keyboards are small, which makes it hard to type (and EXTREMELY curse-worthy if you type a lot).  For another, there are usually NO DVD/CD Burners, only USB ports.  And for a third, without a DVD drive, it is nearly impossible to get many computer programs on the laptop – including QuickBooks.  I have tried to download QuickBooks onto computers from the internet before, but even with the QuickBooks key code, you really need the disks to install the program.  So skip the Netbooks for your business and go with something larger.
  3. To find the best price on a laptop: If I don’t buy my laptop from the manufacturer’s website, then I like to go Best Buy or Office Depot.  They often have incredible sales and decent financing.  On top of that, you can usually take your computer to Best Buy if you need to get something fixed, and Office Depot now offers free computer check-ups whether you buy from them or not.  Check their catalogs regularly and you will be amazed at the deals.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 112) – Theft by Signature Stamp

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

Dear Diary,

Today the boss went on vacation and guess what he gave me…the Signature Stamp.  I couldn’t believe it when he handed it to me.  I think my smile was from ear-to-ear.  Doesn’t he realize how stupid it is to give me the signature stamp?

“Are you sure you want to give this to me?” I asked all innocent like.  In the back of my mind, I was already calculating how much money I might be able to get now that I had this new stamp.

“Of course.  I trust you,” he told me with an amused little smirk.

That smirk told me everything I needed to know.  My question had just convinced him that I was the sweet innocent young lady he had come to know so well.  Because – fool that he was – he sincerely believed that everyone was as open and honest as he was.

I almost felt bad about stealing from him.  Almost.  But then I would remember that I was making less money than everyone else in his company…everyone except the receptionist.

“I don’t know.  That’s a lot of responsibility,” I commented in the best hemming-and-hawing voice I could manage.  “I really don’t want to let you down.”

“It’ll be fine,” he assured me with a light pat on my shoulder.

Then he strolled out of my office.  An hour later, he left the office for good.  He was off to the Caribbean for the next two weeks.

I waited an hour after he left just to make sure he wasn’t coming back.

And then…

Over the next week…

  • I signed some IRS paperwork with that signature stamp.  Whether or not the IRS paperwork is accurate…?  Who cares.  At least it’s filed.
  • I opened a new cell phone account with his signature stamp…got the “Unlimited Text and Talk” package…for my whole family.  My daughter may only be 8, but she loves her pretty new pink cell phone.  And of course, I love my new iPhone.
  • I also got a new Business Gas Card Account.
  • I downloaded a new bank account application from online, signed it with his signature stamp and faxed the paperwork back .  Got instant approval.
  • I sent out several applications to local vendors to get lines of credit.  They all got approved.  I now own a chainsaw from the local hardware store (because I can), an electric lawnmower from Lowes, solar panels for the garden from the local garden supply store, and $300 window blinds from Home Depot.
  • I ordered a bunch of magazine subscriptions in his name and sent them to my house.  (I really love Cosmo.)
  • I walked into Office Depot and paid for a whole bunch of office supplies with a blank company check and his signature…including a new printer for my kids and a portable scanner for… I guess for the “heck of it.”
  • I went to the bank with a check made out to Cash.  (That was an easy $500.)
  • I paid my new car’s DMV bills with his check…and got my husband’s car smogged.
  • I signed a few petitions in his name.  He’s now a Democrat that actively supports breast cancer funding.
  • I also got a PO Box in his name at the local Mailboxes Etc. office.  All that new paperwork will never even come to the office.
  • …And I did a whole bunch of other stuff, although I can’t remember them at the moment.

You know what the best thing is, Diary?  When he comes back, he’ll have no idea what I’ve done.  Most of the paperwork will go to the new PO Box I opened in his name.  And even if he comes back and asks to see the bank statement for the first time ever, he still won’t know what I’ve done.  I can explain away the DMV and car-related bills as “work needed on one of the company vehicles,” the Office Depot check as “supplies we needed” and the Cash check as “Petty Cash” issues that came up.  All the rest…well… there’s just no way he can find out about that stuff.   At least none that I can see.

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How to CATCH this Kind of Theft:

You can’t.

You can’t catch this kind of theft because you’ve given them a free pass to steal from you.  And since your bookkeeper has access to all of your most personal information – social security numbers, DOBs, Tax ID Numbers – you’ve just made it super easy for them to take anything they want in your name.   That means – YOU are responsible LEGALLY for EVERYTHING they’ve done.  The IRS says you owe money, and they have your legal signature on file…then you have to pay it or try to fight it.  It’s your signature. And if you lose, you have to pay penalties and interest on top of the paperwork they’ve filed.

Okay – you CAN catch this kind of theft, but you’ll need a professionals help after the fact to find out what that bad bookkeeper did.  Now you can PREVENT this kind of theft by NOT giving your signature stamp to anyone who has access to your checks, credit cards, or any kind of personal information.  Maybe that person is your office manager or receptionist.  Maybe you can give it to your accountant and make your bookkeeper go to them to get your signature.  Either way, by adding a second person to the mix whenever you go on vacation, thus giving the second person you’re signature stamp, you are taking steps to actively prevent embezzlement while you’re away.

AND REMEMBER – IF YOU EVEN SUSPECT BOOKKEEPING FRAUD, ASK YOUR ACCOUNTANT FOR HELP.  You’re not crazy.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 40) – Stealing the Boss’s Identity

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

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I got a new credit card today. Well, technically, I got a new “company credit card” today. When the boss wasn’t around, I went ahead and called his credit card company and told them we had lost his company card and needed a new one. They asked me for all of the usual identifying information – social security number, mother’s maiden name, address, phone, account number, etc. – and of course, I gave the guy on the other end of the line all of that information. I then told him that I wanted to change the password question “because the last bookkeeper got fired, and we need to protect my boss’s identity.”

The guy at the credit card company didn’t even miss a beat – after all, companies get new bookkeepers all the time. “Which question would you like?” the guy asked me. “Do you want a question about your high school, pets, favorite cities…” and on and on and on.

“How about the question about pets,” I answered innocently.

“Okay. What is your pet’s name?” he asked.

I thought really quickly, then answered, “Moron.”

“Excuse me,” the guy on the phone said.

“My pet’s name is Moron,” I repeated sincerely. What I wanted to add was – “and Moron’s my boss” – but I managed to hold my tongue… barely. It was so hard.

“Okay. Moron it is,” the guy said in a serious tone while clicking away at the keys on the other end of the phone.  “Anything else I can help you with?”

“Oh. I almost forgot,” I added. “Our office has moved. The address I gave you was for the old address. The new address and phone number is…” and then I gave him my home address and personal cell number.

Again, I heard clicking on the other end of the line as the poor dupe updated my boss’s “new information.” When he was done, he said, “You should get that credit card in the mail by…”, which turned out was today.

So, I swung by my house and checked the mail during lunch. The card was already there. So I went ahead and treated myself to lunch – on the boss, of course. After all, he doesn’t pay me nearly enough for all the excellent work I do for him. And since the boss never opens the mail – especially that particular credit card bill– what he doesn’t know what hurt him.

I wonder what I’ll buy tomorrow… Maybe some new earrings. I’ve always wanted pearls…

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How to Prevent this Kind of Bookkeeper Theft:

You would not believe how incredibly frustrating it is to call into your credit card company and find out that all of your password information has been changed. Not only can your password info be changed, but some people even go so far as to change the “mother’s maiden name” question. Of course, the simplest way to stop this is to catch it early. You can do so by doing the following:

  • Open your credit card statements, or check your transactions online regularly. If anything seems questionable – no matter how small or large – call the credit card company immediately and ask them how many cards they’ve sent out. You can also verify that your security information is still what you originally created.
  • If they tell you your password information has changed, be sure to throw a high holy conniption fit and demand to speak to an account manager or “their boss.” Get this account closed immediately because whoever has your card can still make purchases even while you’re on the line. They will send you a new credit card with a new credit card number within a matter of days.
  • Get copies of your three credit reports as soon as you possibly can because – quite frankly – if your private information has been changed, there’s nothing to keep them from signing up for more credit cards at vendors you may never even have heard of. But, the good news is that every single one of those stolen cards will show up on your credit reports!, but not always all three of the reports, which is why you should spend the extra money to access all three. (In fact, for $14.95 a month at Transunion, you can actually access those three reports and credit scores for free every month. It may be worth it if you ever find yourself a victim of identity fraud.)
  • If a credit card company calls you and says there is questionable activity on your account, get online immediately and see what they are talking about. If they are contacting you, they are probably seeing something they’ve never seen on your account before. So even if you have your credit card on you, it never hurts to double check whatever charges they’re concerned about.
  • And lastly, make sure you know where ALL cards are at all times. I once had a client who ordered a card for his wife – a card which never arrived. It turned out, someone stole it from his mailbox and was shopping with it in the next town and my client never knew. Luckily, I caught it with the very next credit card statement when I asked for receipts that matched the charges, and we realized immediately what had happened. So even though the thief had managed to steal more than $7,000 in 15 short days, my client was not liable for a penny, especially because he disputed the charges right away. (Which is another good reason to check those statements every month.)

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Click Here to read the Previous Entry: Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 30) – The Double Payday Scam

Click Here to Read the Next Entry:  Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 55) – The Sister Company Scam


Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 30) – The Double Payday Scam

Dear Diary,

Today was payday – the second since I’ve been here.  I figured it was about time to test the Double Payday Scam – to see if my boss would actually catch me.

So, I started the day by doing the Payroll.  Just like two weeks ago, I created and took all of the paychecks to the boss to sign.  He signed them, with only the occasional request to see a corresponding timecard…then he signed mine without question.

I took the checks back to my office and set mine aside.  Then, I printed up another paycheck that I took back to him.

“What’s this?” he asked me, glancing briefly at my double payday.

“It’s a replacement check.  I double-checked my income and realized that I had entered my withholdings incorrectly, and QuickBooks took out too much in taxes.  So I voided the other one and reprinted this one.”

“Okay,” he said, shrugging and then signing my check.

And just like that – Double payday.  If he had asked me to produce the voided check, I would have gone back to my office and voided the first check… but since he didn’t, he’ll never know.  Even if he opens the bank statement (which let’s face it, he probably won’t), he’ll see the extra paycheck and think he’s just looked at the same check twice.

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How to Catch the Double Payday Scam:

All a small business owner has to do to catch the Double Payday Scam is to ask to see the voided check, or to insist that you will void all checks personally.  They can then refile the checks, and you have protected yourself… it’s that simple.

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Click Here to Read the previous entry:  Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 14) – The Carnage Begins

Click Here to Read the Next Entry:  Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 40) – Stealing the Boss’s Identity

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Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper – (Day 1) A New Job

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

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Dear Diary,

I just started my new job today, and it’s perfect.  It’s a small company with only a few employees, most of whom are never in the office – they all work “in the field.”  Also, there’s a receptionist, so I won’t have to be constantly answering the phone (thank goodness for that).  The receptionist is very friendly, and I can tell that she’s looking forward to having another woman in the office.  Most of the other employees are men – all the better for what I have planned.

The interview went well (…of course it always does).  The owner told me that he’s never in the office because he’s a contractor and he always has to be at a job site.  He told me that I would have to “take initiative” and “put out a lot of fires.”  Basically, he wants to not have to deal with customers and vendors too much, and so he expects to handle everything.  Just as long as he’s left out of it.  Idiot.  Still, it will make my job even easier.

I came in this morning and saw the owner just before he left.  He handed me a set of keys for the office and told me where the checkbook was.  He then showed me my office and stayed for a few minutes to chat.  He told me that he had called a few of my references and he was satisfied.  Thank heavens that the law won’t let previous managers give bad references, lest they get sued.  But even if that wasn’t the law, there was no way in hell I was going to put down my ex-boss as a real reference.  Nope – a friend is good enough…

Guess I should get back to work.  Gotta learn the ropes – before I rob them blind.

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Click here to read the next entry:  Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper – Day 9 (In the Clear)

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: Paypal

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

Dear Diary,

Betty Bookkeeper HeadshotToday I got an intriguing email.  The email was a confirmation from PayPal.  It said that we had spent $150 on an online order.  Since the company does not have a PayPal account, I knew it was a scam – a Phishing Scam, where some con artist is trying to get access to our account.  When you click on the links in the email, you are taken to a fake PayPal page where you are encouraged to log in and verify the purchase (or deny it), and then the fake website captures your real log in details and the con artist can then empty out your PayPal account.  Any good back office person knows – you never click on links in emails from financial websites (because it’s easy to “cloak” the website links).  You always go directly to the original website and log in there. 

Obviously the PayPal notice was a con…but it got me thinking.  Our company does not have a PayPal account…but we could.  It only takes a few minutes to set up, and then you can make payments from any checking account or credit card account that you link to it. 

So I opened one. 

Then, I went online and made a purchase to Office Depot. 

When I checked the bank balance online, I saw that the payment was debited as a PayPal account to Office Depot.  As far as I’m concerned, the explanation from the bank is simple enough to satisfy the boss.  Now, I don’t need to forge checks unless I really want to. 

Now the only question is…what should I buy

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In this mini story, there are actually two cons I’ve brought up:  The Phishing Scam and The PayPal Weak Link. 

The Phishing Scam is an actual scam where a thief sends a fake email encouraging you to click on the link in the email.  By doing so, they can capture your login information and then clean out your bank accounts.  PayPal Emails are the most common financial cons.  After PayPal, sending emails from banks would be the second most common way con artists get information from their victims.

There are three easy ways to spot these scams: 

  1. Banks and financial institutions have standard, precise emails already created that always use the same verbiage.  Phishing emails, on the other hand, often have misspellings and/or sentences that don’t make sense.  If anything doesn’t seem right with any financial institution’s email, it probably isn’t from your financial institution.   
  2. When you open the email, you will see the “From” address is not necessarily from the financial institution it claims to be from.  Whatever is after the “@” sign is the website address.  Anything in addition to the normal address probably means the email is a scam.  (For example:  …@paypal.fakesite.com or …@fakesite.paypal.alerts.com.)  Both the paypal.fakesite.com and the fakesite.paypal.alerts.com are completely fake because whatever comes before the .com is the site.  That means, these sites would be fakesite.com and alerts.com…not PayPal.com.   
  3. And finally, banks and financial institutions openly encourage customers to NOT click on links from their emails because Phishing Scams are so common.  Instead, they will tell you to go directly to their actual website to log in so that you can verify if the email is from the bank or not (and thus the alert is fake or not). 

Also, it’s common to get emails from banks you don’t even have an account with.  If that happens, obviously you can ignore those…but if you are concerned that an embezzler has opened an account in your name, just print out that email and go down to the bank to see if you have an account or not. 

AND when in doubt – go directly to the source…never click on the links in an email from a Financial Institution. 

As for the second con – The PayPal Weak Link: 

It is very, very easy to open a PayPal account and link it to a checking account…any checking account.  PayPal has a very simple verification process, which means that creating a PayPal account is easy for anyone with access to your checking account information, including your bookkeeper.  From there, it is very easy to steal money because PayPal and the bank account link together in order to create instant money transfers.  Plus, money can be sent to anyone with another PayPal account, and everyone takes PayPal these days (including airlines and other travel agencies), so stealing becomes very easy.

Therefore, to protect yourself from someone linking a PayPal account to YOUR checking account, you need to link it first.  In other words, you need to be the one to create a PayPal account with your checking account.  PayPal only allows a checking account to be linked ONCE, which means no one else can use the checking account information.  Once you have linked it, keep that information to yourself.  There’s no need to share it with your bookkeeper or anyone else because business’s should stick to using Bank Bill Pay and writing checks…Period.  PayPal should only be used by one person…the creator of that account.

Thus, if you don’t have a PayPal account, start one immediately in order to protect your checking account.  If PayPal does NOT let you create a PayPal account, then an embezzler has already linked to your checking account, and you need to consider closing it.  This is one of those huge companies that you just can’t avoid, and you really shouldn’t avoid. 

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: Why the Accountant Did NOT Catch Me

Dear Diary,

Let me just say – WhewWhat a relief.  Tax time is over and I got off scott-free.

You see, I was very concerned that when I handed over the business books to the accountant this year, I would be busted – caught – nailed to the wall.  I was sure I’d be in Shawshank before long, and I was almost tempted to clean up my act – almost.  I was sure I was cooked when the accountant called me a couple days ago and asked for the bookkeeping program’s “Accountant backup.”  How could the accountant NOT see at an instant that I’ve been embezzling from the company for months now, especially when they have completely access to everything I’ve done?

But I got lucky.

Turns out, the accountant only wanted the backup of the program so that he could enter the usual accountant adjustments like depreciating the assets, updating interest balances, and adjusting the Cost of Goods Sold account.  And thankfully, most of that information was updated from the reports that I created for the accountant’s perusal.

Still, it was a long couple of days as I waited for the Accountant’s copy to be returned.

And then the wait was over.  The accountant copy was back and the accountant had praised me to the boss.  He went so far as to say that I “kept a clean set of books.”

The boss was so happy, he gave me a raise.

I never thought I’d say it – but I’m glad the accountant looked at the books.  I can’t wait until next year.  I’m thinking, maybe I’ll create a second set of books… just in case the accountant ever decides to look closer.

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Why the Accountant Did NOT Catch the Embezzlement

E.T. Barton

This is a concern I hear from a lot of business owners that were embezzled from.  Even more often, I hear business owners that have NOT been embezzled from telling me that they are NOT worried about embezzlement because “they have an accountant.”  Both types of business owners usually believe that when they hand over their books at the end of the year, the accountant is automatically going to look deeply between the lines and spot anything suspicious.

FINDING EMBEZZLEMENT IS NOT THE ACCOUNTANT’S JOB… not unless they’re asked.

During tax time, accountant’s are bombarded with books from various businesses.  They have a very limited amount of time to do everything from sending out tax forms to making adjustments to various accounts.  In other words – tax time is an accountant’s “busy season.”  They often have a preset list of actions to do with any business’s books.

Another Example of Missed Embezzlement

Let me state this another way.  Recently, I have been working with a non-profit branch of a company that reports their profits and losses to their “parent” company.  Since the company is a non-profit branch (or chapter) and NOT a business that is run in the usual ways, this branch reports does NOT report directly to the IRS or an accountant.  Instead, they are sent a questionnaire from the parent company that they have to fill out and send back to the parent company.  They are not asked for any backup, which makes it even easier to steal from the branch.

Recently, when I reported to the parent company that I saw signs of embezzlement in this particular branch, the parent company said they would look into the financials.  When they looked over the reports that the embezzler made up for the chapter, they reported no signs of embezzlement.  They openly admitted that they had to have a closer look at the records and the bank statements in order to verify if their was embezzlement or not.  And since the branch (chapter) is not required in the non-profit policies and procedures, the branch could very well go under if a closer look at the books is not performed immediately.

How to Catch this Kind of Embezzlement

The only way for an accountant to catch this type of embezzlement is to have the business owner actually ASK the accountant to look for embezzlement.  If the accountant is not asked, they will not look closer.  They will go through their preset list of actions and look no further.  The other way is to have someone else – preferably another bookkeeper – look more closely at the reports and compare them to the bank statements.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 55) – The Sister Company Scam

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

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Dear Diary,

Today I became a business owner.  That’s right, I’ve opened my own business and am about to make a million dollars the easy way – with little or no money down.  Okay – I spent a little money.  But technically, it wasn’t my money.  It was my boss’s money – or maybe I should call him my “investor” – not that he knows he’s an investor.

If only all those companies touting their “make a million dollars without doing any work at all” plans knew how easy it really was… because my way really is the “no work necessary” way.

Anyway… I went down to the courthouse today on my lunch break, a little bit of petty cash in hand.  I registered a new “DBA,” also known as a Fictitious Business Name.  The form only cost $20 and now I have a business name.  The lady behind the counter told me that I would have to run the new business name in the newspaper for 30 days to announce my new business venture, but it can be any newspaper in the county.  I found a small newspaper company that will do it for about $25 for the whole month.  Pretty good deal, huh?

So once I had my Fictitious Business Name document in hand, I went down to the bank and opened up a “business checking account” for $15 a month.  I even went to the same bank as my boss’s bank.  Figured it means less driving around when I have to go the bank for him.  And normally, I wouldn’t pay so much for a checking account, but again, it’s not my money.

So guess what my new company’s name is…

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Well, Diary, you know how I work for “Smith’s Distribution Company”.  I named my company “Smith’s Distinguished Corporation.”  The reason – stealing, of course.  I’ve seen a lot of deposits come across my desk and I noticed a pattern on the [ad#Word Checks].  People tend to write the checks to “Smith’s,” “Smith’s Dist.,” or “Smith’s Dist. Co.”  Seeing all those checks, I suddenly realized that I can totally steal those checks.  Since “Smith’s Distribution Company” is not fully printed on the check, I can put it into my new business checking account and the tellers will assume that the abbreviations on the checks are short for the name of my company.  They’ll probably even assume that the name of my company is just a sister company to my boss’s business.  And unless he goes down to the bank and asks if I have my own business checking account, there’s no real way that he’s going to know what I’m up too.

After work, I actually made my first deposit.  It was a check for $1,200.  See – the experts were right.  You do have to spend money to make money.  All I had to spend was $60 and I made my first $1,200.  This is going to be sweeeeeet!

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How to STOP the Sister Company Scam:

As mentioned above, it’s nearly impossible to know if someone in your company has begun this scam.  You would first have to guess the Sister Company’s name as closely as possible before you can even look it up – although you can try and look it up at your local County Recorder’s Office.  Most likely, you won’t find anything online about the Sister Company because the Embezzler would have to advertise their theft for it to show up in search engines… and there’s no way they’re going to admit to anyone but a diary that they’re a scum-sucking thief.

Now, just because it’s hard to spot the scam, doesn’t mean it’s hard to stop the scam.  The reason this scam happens is because it’s an easy “crime of opportunity.”  It gets by because no one thinks to double check it, then prevent it.  To do this, all you have to do is get an “For Deposit Stamp” (or to put it another way, an Endorsement Stamp).  e

Think about this:  When you go to a large retailer like Target, what do they do with checks?  As soon as the cashier receives the check, they run it through the machine, and the machine prints an endorsement on the back.  That prevents the check from going into any bank account but the one linked to that business.  That’s what a “Deposit Stamp” can do for you.  When you stamp a check on the back with your company name, account number, and the words “For Deposit Only,” the bank will then make sure that check gets into the correct account.  Period.  It’s that simple.  You can also get a stamp for the front of the check that will stamp your company’s full and accurate name, but the best way to prevent this kind of fraud is to get an Endorsement Stamp.  This kind of custom stamp is often $10-$20 at online sites, but I found a deal to get a free stamp at www.iPrint.com – all you pay is Shipping and Handling. That’s a $15 value for $3.49 S&H total. Check it out and get yours today if you don’t already have one: [ad#Button – Free Stamp]

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Click Here to Read the Previous Entry:  Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 40) – Stealing the Boss’s Identity

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: (Day 72) Bank Balance? What Bank Balance?

Dear Diary,

Today, was a funny day.  The boss came into my office, and he had this look on his face.  It was a look like, I’m gonna get answers – no matter what.

Pasting an innocent expression on my face, I quickly hid the Mafia Wars game on my computer screen and turned my full attention to him.  “What’s up, Boss?” I asked.

“Hey, Betty.  I was just wondering – how much money do we have in the checking account right now?”

Oh Crap, I thought.  He’s not catching on to me, is he? “Why do you ask?”

“Well, I was checking out the iPads online, and I was thinking I wanted to get one of the ones with 3G—”

You and Me both!

“—But I don’t want to have to finance it.  I figured maybe we could pay cash for it.  So, I was just wondering what our bank balance was.”

Heck if I know.

Okay, maybe I do know, but I can’t tell him the real balance. “I’ll have to get back to you on that one,” I told him.

He looked around at the large piles of paperwork on my desk, his face twisting with irritation.  “You can’t just pull up some report and tell me?”  It was obvious he didn’t like my carefully gathered piles of paperwork, but I had to look busy.

“It’s not that easy,” I lied.  “I have so much work, it’s going to take me a while to get you an accurate balance.”

“I can wait,” he said, leaning against the table in my office.

It was then, I knew… I would have to pull out the big guns to get him to drop the subject.

Grabbing my stomach, I grunted and shifted in my seat.

“You okay?” he asked.

I waved a hand nonchalantly.  “Oh, sure.  I’m fine.  It’s just… I’m cramping.  I’m PMS’ing right now, and my stomach is really hurting.  I want to get you that balance, but I’m in so much pain.”

He stiffened, as if I’d slapped him, and quickly came to his feet.  Then, his face turned red so fast, I thought steam would shoot out of his ears.

“You’re hurting that much?” he asked, inching toward the door.

I whimpered and nodded.  I wanted to drive it home with a  few tears – just to see if I could get sweat to break out on his balding forehead – but I’ve never been good at making myself cry.  So instead, I did the whole wobbly chin thing.

“You know what – you’re busy,” he told me, from the hallway now.  “I can get it another time.  Just let me know the balance when you can.”  And with that, he turned on one heel and practically sprinted away.

I was hard-pressed not to start laughing out loud.  But I realized a hard truth.  Men will always run when it comes to PMS and tears.

I will definitely remember that next time.

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What Any Business Owner Has the Right to Expect From Their Bookkeeper:

I know a lot of bookkeepers may get mad at me for saying this, but in my opinion, when a business owner asks “What is my bank balance?” the bookkeeper should be able to answer fairly quickly.  A good bookkeeper will be doing the bank reconciliations regularly – as in, within a week of receiving the bank statements.  And even if they don’t have an exact balance because there are checks and debits outstanding, they should still be able to estimate fairly accurately what the current balance is.  If they can’t tell you the balance – or estimate it – or if they say it will take a couple days to do the bank reconciliation, take this as a warning sign.  The Bank Register is one of the most important things a bookkeeper manages, and they should be on top of it.  Personally, it has never taken me longer than an hour to do a bank reconciliation, and that’s with entering checks.  Obviously, give them time to calculate it, but it’s reasonable to expect the balance by the end of the day.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper – (Day 97) The Shell Company Scam

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

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Dear Diary,

Another day, another dollar…or at least, another stolen dollar.

Well – I’ve had my own company for about two weeks now and I’ve made a couple thousand dollars skimming off the deposits.  The boss hasn’t noticed.  As far as he’s concerned, all of the invoices are paid, and I’m doing my job incredibly well.  In fact, I just passed the three month trial period, and the boss gave me a $0.50 an hour raise.  When he told me that, I felt like saying, “Really?  A whole $0.50 an hour.  You’re too kind.  Now I can buy that car I need.”  But instead, I didn’t.

Still, I do need a new car.  Fifty cents an hour is only an extra $1,040 per year.  That’s not even going to pay for a cup holder.  My car is breaking down and dying in the most inconvenient places, so I really just want to get a new car.  I don’t really need anything fancy, but the best cars are at least $20,000.  I need to figure out how to get a bigger down payment.  I want to put down at least $5,000, but the way things are going, that’s going to take a couple more weeks.  I have no idea if my car can make it a couple more weeks.

I thought about starting another business, but I don’t really want to pay another $100 or so for the licenses…plus, the time it takes to go to the bank and get another account…I’d rather not.

But I did come up with another idea.  I wrote a check to Johnson Hauling for $1,500.

“What’s this check for,” the boss asked me when I gave it to him to sign.  I had been hoping he wouldn’t notice it, since I slipped it in with a bunch of other checks.  But since he had…

“That’s a new vendor we’re using,” I told him.  “We needed to haul away a bunch of left over trash and remnants from the newest renovation project, and they were the best deal.  They delivered a trash can to the project, then hauled it away when they were done.”

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In case I didn’t mention it, the company I work for buys, renovates and sells houses.  So paying $1,500 to haul away remnants was not that uncommon.

“Okay,” he said, distracted as he signed the next check, and then the next.  Finally, he handed me the pile of checks and gave me a dismissive wave of his hand.

I left the office triumphant.  The truth was, I didn’t need to create another company because Johnson Hauling is my husband’s company.  The check that he had just written, I was able to cash at the bank because I’m a signer on the Johnson Hauling bank account.  My husband will never know that I got this money because I can just cash the check.  And the boss has never met my husband, so he has no idea that my husband and I have different last names.  The result… I am now $1,500 closer to buying my new car.

I think I’ll go test drive a Toyota Prius.  It’s a very energy efficient car.  After all, it’s my moral duty to save the planet.

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A Little More Information About This Kind of Scam:

This scam is commonly referred to as a shell company scam because the embezzler is paying a valid company for services that were never rendered or products that were never delivered.  Thus, the company is solid with a banking history while the transaction is nothing but air.  Any teller will cash that check without qualms and hand over the money to whomever’s name is on the account.

This scam is also often pulled when a payment is made to an individual or an employee.  The embezzler’s excuse might be that this person was just a subcontractor for the day and was paid under the table.  Many times, the embezzler will even go so far as to pay someone they are friends with, and then let the friend take a portion of the embezzled funds.  They can steal for a long time this way without getting caught, especially because the owner gets used to seeing that name.

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To Stop This Scam:

It’s important to do your homework.  If you don’t recognize the name of a company, or know anything about the transaction that took place, then ask questions – lots of questions. Ask who ordered the product or services.  Whoever requested the order – sometimes it might be another employee – it’s important to ask them why they placed that order.  Ask to see a Purchase Order, Shipping Receipt, or an Invoice from the company.  Go and look at the service that was done or the product that was delivered.  Talk to someone at the company for which the check is written too and make sure that they actually delivered the product or service.  A good rule of thumb is this… If the payment is for a new account – whether a vendor, employee, subcontractor, or customer – demand proof.  Make contact, or ask for paperwork.

Warning Signs:

  • If someone is colluding with the embezzler to steal from you, they may look you straight in the eye and lie about what they’ve done for your company.  That’s why it’s important to go with your gut when you meet someone.  If you don’t like them, “fire them.”
  • Also, if you ask for paperwork and it doesn’t have an address or phone number, be suspicious.  Valid companies automatically put their contact information on all their paperwork because they want to make sure they get paid – and if you can’t call them with questions, you won’t be paying.  So, ask for the invoice or statement, and be very, very slow at paying anyone you’re suspicious of.  Let them call you and demand payment when in doubt.