Golden Business Ideas

BY STANLEY ZAROWIN
May 1, 2004

Protect Against Identity Theft
Despite complex passwords, multiple user names and 16-digit account numbers supposedly standing guard over our financial records, high-tech identity theft is rampant. The price tag continues to soar as sophisticated thieves find ways to dip into our bank and security accounts. Here are some safety advisories to pass along to clients:

Use only your initials and your last name on preprinted checks. So if someone steals your checkbook, they will not know how you sign your checks—with your initials or your first name and last name. But your bank knows.

When writing checks to pay credit card accounts, include only the last four numbers of the account number on the “For” line. The credit card company knows the rest of the code, but a thief won’t.

Leave your home address and phone number off your checks. If you have a post office box, it’s better to use that; if not, and you feel a need to add an address, use your work address and phone number.

If you must include your Social Security number on checks, write—never preprint. Be wary about giving the number to anyone but authorized people—your banker or accountant, for example.

Photocopy the front and back of all the ID cards (driver’s license and credit cards, for example) in your wallet. Jot down the credit card issuers’ phone numbers to call if you lose the wallet, and keep the photocopy in a safe place.

Immediately after you discover a loss, cancel your credit cards; that’s why you want those phone numbers handy.
n File a police report as soon as possible in the jurisdiction where the wallet disappeared. That proves to credit card providers you were diligent—an issue that may arise if the thief runs up huge charges.

Immediately call the three national credit-reporting organizations to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. Once alerted, any company that checks your credit immediately will be told your information was stolen. You should call the following: Equifax (888-766-0008), Experian (888-397-3742) and Trans Union (800-680-7289). You also should report the loss to the Social Security Administration’s fraud line at 800-269-0271.

Advice on Giving Advice
Invariably, the company accountant is going to be asked his or her opinion on whether a proposed new product or service will be successful—aside from financial considerations. Keep an open mind and avoid appearing too conservative or you may be seen as a pessimist. For perspective, be aware that even the marketing experts have been shown to be wrong. Some of the products market research predicted would be flops: minivans, microwave ovens, cellular phones, Federal Express, the Fox and CNN news networks and the personal computer.

STANLEY ZAROWIN is a freelance writer in Zionsville, Indiana. Mr. Zarowin retired from the JofA in 2003. His e-mail address is zarowin@mindspring.com .

An Invitation
monthly collection of Golden Business Ideas and invites readers to contribute their favorites (for attribution, if you like).

Send your ideas to contributing editor Stanley Zarowin via e-mail at zarowin@mindspring.com or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881.

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