October 25, 2010

Is My Blog Too Good To Be True?

By Paul Bieber

Yes, my blogs are great works of literature; yes I get paid $15,000 for each blog; yes, my blog is read by millions of people in seventy different languages; and yes, if you believe this you had better read on.

I received a wonderful brochure from the U.S. Post Office the other day. A simple one-page flyer on how to avoid being a victim of fraud. With thanks to the Post Office for putting this together, here are some of their thoughts along with mine.

Watch for these warning signs in letters and emails:

  • Sounds too good to be true
  • Pressures you to act NOW
  • Success is guaranteed
  • You will receive three times the standard return
  • Requires an upfront payment–even to receive your free prize
  • Buyers want to overpay you and then have you send them the difference
  • Something doesn’t feel right…trust your gut feeling
  • Your bank will never email or call you for your account number
  • Don’t wire money to anyone you don’t know, no matter what the reason
  • Some work-at-home job offers are real, but most are schemes just to have you buy their product. Be careful here
  • Foreign lotteries are illegal in the US–you cannot win no matter what they say
  • What can you and your employees in the glass industry do to help themselves?
  • The government requires that the three major credit bureaus give every person a free credit report once a year. The site is: annualcreditreport.com. This is completely free and safe. All of the free credit report ads you see on TV or the Internet have a catch—you have to sign up for some other service that will cost you.
  • Don’t open suspicious email. Don’t click on a link inside an email to visit a suspicious web site. If you really want to go to the site, type the address into your browser separately.
  • The best web site I have ever seen for fraud and rumor verification is snopes.com. Their research base is huge and totally reliable.
  • On your browser, set your security filter at a high level to block as many emails as you can. Make sure your firewall and virus checker are updated at least weekly, and don’t turn them off.

How does fraud prevention impact the glass industry?

  • Don’t believe that someone from another country has chosen you to launder their money. Wake up!
  • Don’t cut glass in advance for a shipment overseas until the deposit check, covering at least your costs, clears your bank. Don’t attempt to make the shipment until payment, in full, has cleared your bank. I have heard from many people who have bitten on this one, and every single one was burned. If you are not sure about a possible customer, ask for and follow-up on credit references.
  • Don’t ever pay anything in advance for an opportunity to do business unless you are 100% sure of the reliability of the customer. The Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) is a perfect site to check on a business you don’t know.
  • Occasionally we all get a job that is clearly a home run. You can make money in the glass business, but be careful and trust your gut feel more than the pull of your wallet.

And, in the operation of your business,

  • Sign every check yourself. If you can’t, have two signatures on each check. This will reduce your exposure by a huge margin.
  • Watch your credit card refund slips. Have each refund double- checked in your shop.
  • If you have a bill from a vendor you don’t know, learn who it is before you send the check.
  • Check your weekly payroll logs from your payroll provider. Investigate any names you don’t personally know, and watch for any overtime that you did not authorize.
  • You will always need some petty cash in the office. Just keep an eye on it.
  • Watch for supplies going out the door. This usually means someone is moonlighting.

Now, send two $10 bills to my home address. You will receive a list of 5,000 top companies that will give you business, pay their bills in 10 days, and never, never, never give you a punch list or a charge back.