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What You Need to Know About the Equifax Data Breach

Posted By Kenyatta Turner, LegalShield Independent Associate, Friday, September 15, 2017

What you need to know about the Equifax Data Breach:

Equifax, Inc – a major credit bureau, announced on Thursday, 9/7/17, that a massive data breach was discovered in July, which may have exposed names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and addresses of approximately 143 million U.S. consumers. The current US population is approximately 326 million, so this data breach potentially affected 44% of Americans! In addition, a smaller amount of driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers and certain documents were obtained. The breach lasted from mid-May to July of 2017.

This is just the latest example of how, no matter how careful you are, there are forces beyond your control that can still lead to your personally identifiable information being exposed.

At IDShield, we know how stressful data breaches are, and we are here to help.  As a member, please know:

  • You have full access to our dedicated and experienced licensed private investigators to ask any questions and get help if you are worried that you are a victim of fraud.
  • You have proactive credit monitoring through Experian and will be alerted if there are any changes to their credit report.

If you are not a member of IDShield, there are still steps that you can take to provide an extra layer of security.

  • First, set up a fraud alert. This will reduce the chance of a fraudster opening a credit or loan account in your name. If you place the alert with one bureau, they will ensure its placed on the other bureaus as well. Fraud alerts last for 90 days, but can be renewed. You can search online for placing a fraud alert and select one of the main bureaus to set it up through. To sign up via Experian, use this link: https://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html. To sign up via TransUnion, use this link: https://www.transunion.com/fraud-victim-resource/place-fraud-alert.
  • Second, be diligent. Don't give out your personal information if it sounds fishy. IDShield members, if you're unsure, this is a great time to call your licensed private investigator for advice!
  • Third, change your passwords for online banking and other finance accounts. This will reduce the risk of your money or assets being moved fraudulently. As you change your password, use your IDShield Vault password manager to generate a new strong password!

And of course, if you don’t yet have IDShield, this is a great time to sign up for comprehensive identity protection and full service, white glove restoration. Visit www.idshield.com to learn more!

 

I'm here to help, so please do not hesitant to contact me!

Kenyatta Turner, LegalShield / IDShield Independent Associate, 602-367-1069

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Tags:  data breach  financial  financing  fradulent  fraud  hackers  identity protection  law  lawyer  Legal  legal advice  legal services  legalshield  lending  loans 

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Should you consider a commercial construction loan?

Posted By Julie Smith, Horizon Community Bank, Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Your business has grown, and it might be time to move into your own building. You’ve looked at commercial real estate for sale or lease, but just haven’t found what you’re looking for. The location or size is wrong, its age requires costly remodeling, or some other feature excludes every property you’ve seen.

Should you build?

Learning about the process, securing a loan and other basic details might help you decide.

HOW DO I BEGIN THE PROCESS?

There are many ways to educate yourself about commercial construction loans, but the fastest path to a smart answer is a straight line to experts who deal with this every day. Obtaining their help to answer these three questions is where you begin.

1. Can you qualify for funding? Meet with a commercial banker to discuss financing. Traditional partners include a commercial builder, a commercial real estate agent, a real estate attorney and a banker. We suggest beginning with the banker to be sure you qualify for the necessary funding before you spend too much time pursuing construction or shopping for land. It gives you a solid understanding of payments you can afford, how much of cash you’ll need for the down payment, and other important financial details.

According to Propertymetrics.com (and a sentiment we agree with), “construction or development loans are almost always [financed by] local community or regional banks. Historically this was due to bank regulation that restricted trade areas for lending.”

 Using a community bank also gives you access to a commercial banker with strong local relationships and a solid understanding of the local market. This can be incredibly helpful when selecting other construction partners. The banker often knows builders personally or by reputation, and can point you in the right direction with options you might not have considered. 

 The right banker can also help you with customized financing, since you won’t need just one loan. You’ll need to understand the kind of funding your cash flow can support, and obtain a package loan that includes short-term (mini-perm) funding to purchase land and fund building costs, then a long-term mortgage loan to pay it off at a lower interest rate. Other loans might be included in your package, which the banker will help you understand. It’s a complex process. 

2. How long will it take? Put together a realistic timeline from funding through move in. Building from the ground up is a labor-intensive, LONG process. Not every business can afford to wait a year or longer to move in.

Sitting down to think through the process and how long a build takes from start-to-finish is sobering. Is waiting twelve or eighteen months a problem for business operations? Do you have that kind of time?

Talking this over over with your construction partners, along with the actual timeline of similar local projects, may be just the realization needed to make a decision that’s right for you.

3. Is land available in the location you prefer? Arizona is growing quickly, and its major cities are challenged with rapidly disappearing empty lots for sale. It’s harder and harder to find land that isn’t already occupied. Depending on budget, some are even bulldozing older buildings to make room for new construction in premier locations. Commercial builders have insight into available land, as do commercial real estate agents. Once you have discussed financing and are qualified to secure funding, it’s time to start looking at real estate options.

Figuring out if the right piece of property is available or not can swiftly guide your decision to build.

WHAT DOES THE UNDERWRITING PROCESS LOOK LIKE?

Funding for a commercial loan can differ based on the use of the building. If it’s an investment and you’ll be leasing space, terms are different than an owner-occupied loan. A banker considers the property’s ability to generate cash flow, instead of just overall cash flow for the business, and the investor’s experience and ability to manage the property. If the property is to be owner-occupied, a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan may also be considered.

For the sake of this article, let’s assume the loan is for an owner-occupied building. Before a banker begins helping you create a pro-forma document detailing the construction project, budget, market conditions, builder/contractor information, financials and credit history, they will discuss the purpose and goals of the project with you, and do a preliminary screening of your creditworthiness. From the preliminary information provided, the bank will decide if the proposed transaction meets its criteria for a qualified transaction. If the initial decision is to move forward, a term sheet is provided outlining details of the proposed loan.

Then the real work begins. The business owner will be asked to provide common financials, such as personal tax returns, profit and loss statements for the business, construction cost estimates and full project plans, and more. The banker will work with you to complete the process, which is extremely detailed.

Once loan underwriting is complete, the loan shifts into the closing process. It’s complex, with a vast amount of paperwork and processes required to protect the banker and borrower. Because the construction loan is funded in stages based on project completion, the borrower won’t receive a check and be on their way.  Both the borrower and the developer will work closely with someone at the bank to follow bank policies and procedures in accordance with the loan terms.

TWO THINGS TO REMEMBER

Because of the time involved and how closely the relationships must work together, choosing the right combination of banker and builder is essential. You’re virtually married to them to them for years, in constant communication almost every single day. Their experience, skills and connections make all the difference

It’s also important to understand the time commitment commercial construction requires before you commit to the project. It’s not just about how many months it takes to complete, but how much of your time the project will require.

Business owners are busy and construction projects have a million and one details demanding attention. Sitting down to think through the process and how long a build takes from start-to-finish is sobering. It’s virtually a full-time job on its own. Do you have that kind of time? Can you afford the intangible “cost” of diverting attention from your business to the construction process? These are worth consideration.

If this isn’t something a borrower can manage, perhaps it’s better to purchase and retrofit an existing building, rather than building.

Commercial construction is an intimidating venture for beginners. If you have questions about funding, qualifications or the process, Horizon Community Bank is here for you with a free, no-obligation consultation. Contact us today, we’re pleased to help. You can also reach out to us on our Facebook page

Tags:  business  business loan  commercial real estate  financing  small business 

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Avoid These Six Debt Collection Pitfalls

Posted By Kenyatta Turner, LegalShield Independent Associate, Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Small Business News


Avoid These Six Debt Collection Pitfalls 

Your ability to collect a debt owed to your business hinges on the processes and policies you have in place. You can avoid some of the most common mistakes and improve your chance of successfully collecting a debt by understanding where problems often arise. Your LegalShield provider law firm is ready to help you understand the laws that govern collections, draft letters to debtors and assist you in taking further legal action if necessary. Call your LegalShield provider law firm if you need assistance with a collection matter or have any questions.

  1. “We didn’t have a payment policy or written contract.” Handshake deals and verbal agreements are difficult to legally enforce. It is essential to have a signed contract for any product or service for which payment will be made at a later date. Your contract or agreement should include a uniform payment policy. Your policy should include exact due dates or a timeline for payment, the name of the individual or business responsible, accepted forms of payment and any potential fees or interest for delinquent payment.

  2. “Our accounting records are a disaster.” Accurate and detailed records will help you quickly identify and manage delinquent accounts. Your customers and clients should know exactly where their account stands. Provide itemized invoices that include a specific due date for payment. If an account is delinquent, include the total amount owed, the number of days past due, the original due date and any late fees or interest owed.

  3. "We waited because we didn't want to upset the customer." If a customer's account becomes past due, consider placing a hold on the account and contact the customer. The longer a customer's account is delinquent and the more debt they accrue the more difficult collection becomes. You may have to make the determination to stop providing additional services or products until payment is made. Always remain professional and courteous.

  4. “We don’t have any documentation but I remember talking to the customer.” Good accounting practices will insure you retain copies of bills and invoices. You must also document your collection efforts. Your records should include letters and emails, as well as the dates and times of any phone calls or meetings. This information will be extremely important if legal action becomes necessary.

  5. “I was so mad I couldn’t stay calm.” Remain professional and friendly during each interaction with delinquent customers. It is illegal to threaten, harass or intimidate customers who are unable to make payment. Never threaten an action you are not willing or legally allowed to make. Making the issue personal or becoming aggressive will hurt your chances of successfully collecting the debt and could land you in legal trouble.

  6. “I didn’t really think the attorney could help.” Utilize your LegalShield small business membership. Call your provider law firm for assistance with collection matters. Your attorney can help you understand the law, draft a collection letter on your behalf, review your contracts and answer other legal questions you may have. If a collection letter does not resolve the matter, your provider law firm will advise you on additional legal remedies available to your business.  

 

For more information about LegalShield or IDShield for yourself, your family, your business, or your employees, please contact Kenyatta Turner, Independent Associate at 602-367-1069 or KenyattaTurner@LegalShieldAssociate.com.  Worry Less...Live More!

 

Tags:  accounting  Bookkeeping  contracts  CPA  debt cancellation  debt collection  family-owned business  finance  financing  legal advice  legal services  small biz  small business  Taxes 

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"Field Guide" to Financing Your Small Business

Posted By Joel Gottesman, Liquid Capital Of Arizona, Thursday, September 10, 2015
Finance

About the Author.  Joel Gottesman, is the owner and President of Liquid Capital of Arizona, specializing in alternative finance, including ABL, factoring, export, inventory and PO finance.  Joel has also been a successful attorney, banker and small business owner. 

 

Introduction.  Field guides help people learn about and identify different varieties of plant and animal wildlife.  This financial field guide can help you sort through the many financing alternatives available for small business.     

Available Financing Options.  The main financing tools in alphabetical order are: 

Asset Based Lending (ABL).  A line of credit from a bank or finance company in the form of a revolving line of credit tied to the amount of eligible assets, including accounts receivable, inventory and equipment.  The typical size of an ABL line is from $1 million to over $10 million.  ABL loans are generally for well-established businesses that do not qualify for a traditional or SBA bank loan.  Generally, the cost of an ABL line is higher than the cost of a bank loan, but less than Factoring.           


Bank Loans – SBA and Traditional

Banks provide a variety of loan options to small business.  Often the loans are made under the government guaranty programs of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).  The SBA has a number of programs for financing real estate and equipment purchases as well as general working capital needs.   The loans are secured by the assets of the business or the assets financed by the loan.  The maximum amount for SBA loans is $5.5 million.  The SBA Express Loan Program offers loans on a streamlined basis for up to $350,000.   If a business can meet the underwriting standards, an SBA guaranteed loan is usually the most cost effective solution.

Cash Advances.

Cash advance loans are based on borrowing against future revenues based on the sales history of the business.  This is a fast-evolving financing tool for small business.  The typical loan advance is unsecured and ranges from $25,000 to $1 million.  The advance is usually repaid in daily withdrawals from your business bank account over a six to twelve month period.  Because the loan is unsecured, it is usually at the upper end of the cost structure for business finance. 

Community Non-Profit Lenders.  Non-profit community lenders offer loan programs for small business and start-ups.  Community lenders can provide loans ranging from $1,000 to $1 million on favorable terms and take into account community development efforts.

 

Equipment Finance 

Equipment leases and loans can be used to finance needed equipment.  The size ranges from $5,000 to over $5 million.  If a company has spent cash in the past to acquire equipment, it may be possible to “unlock” the cash by financing the owned equipment.    The cost varies with the credit of the business.  

Equity & Arizona Crowdfunding Law

Historically, equity investment for small business comes from the owner, family and friends, private “angel investors” and venture capital firms.  The latest development in Arizona is the new crowdfunding law that became effective on July 3, 2015.  The Arizona law is the first in the nation to “go operational” using a crowdfunding approach popularized by such firms as Kickstarter (non-equity raises).   Under the Arizona law, a company can raise up to $2.5 million if it has audited financial statements, or up to $1 million dollars if it does not.  Equity may be sold only to Arizona residents.  For investors who are “accredited” (meet certain minimum financial tests), there is no cap on the investment amount.  For investors who do not meet these tests, there is a cap on the investment of $10,000 per company.   The new law provides a streamlined process, but there are requirements of the Arizona Corporation Commission that must be followed.  

There are also new developments on the federal level.  On June 19, 2015, the SEC implemented Regulation A+, which permits well-established businesses to raise increased amounts of equity under streamlined disclosure rules.    

Equity investment is usually the most costly form of financing and you have a “partner” in the business until the equity is bought back or the business is sold.

Export Finance

Export sales can be a great channel to grow your business.  The key to export finance for small business is finding a lender that will fund sales to foreign customers. There are a number of alternatives, including bank loans, ABL loans or Factoring.  There are government guarantee programs offered through the SBA and the U.S. Export Import Bank (as of this writing the charter of the ExIm Bank has lapsed and may not be renewed by Congress).

Factoring

Factoring is the cash sale of your accounts receivable at a discount so you do not have to wait for your customers to pay before you can redeploy the cash.  A factoring line can range from $25,000 to over $10 million.  Finance companies usually make their credit decision based on your customer’s credit rather than your credit.  Factoring can help an early stage company as long as there are sales being generated.  Only receivables from businesses or government qualify; sales to consumers do not.   The cost of Factoring is higher than a bank loan or an ABL loan, but can put into place quickly.

Inventory Finance

nventory finance can cover the cost of inventory in the form of raw materials, parts or finished goods.  This type of financing is usually only available to well-established businesses.  It is similar to PO Finance, but does not require that the product be pre-sold.   The financing can be in the range of $25,000 to over $500,000 or more.   The cost is similar to Factoring and PO Finance.

Purchase Order Finance (PO).  A specialized form of financing the cost of producing a product that is pre-sold to credit-worthy customers. PO Finance is used to pay for goods manufactured by a third-party and assures the manufacturer of payment once the product is made.  PO Finance can be useful to smaller companies that obtain a large volume of purchase orders.  The typical size of a PO Finance transaction can range from $50,000 to over $10 million.

Business Community Resources

There are many resources available in the business community to help small business owners and entrepreneurs.  A good starting point for more information is the In Business Magazine 2014/2015 Lending Guide.  The Lending Guide lists a number of Arizona lenders, lending resources and community organizations providing counseling and mentoring.  See the Guide at

http://issuu.com/mediapublishersgroup/docs/inbusiness_1014_lending_guide?e=1180713/9536086

Another excellent resource is the Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA) which also offers an effective mentoring program.  A listing of ASBA resources can also be found online at:

 http://www.asba.com/?business_resources

Wishing you much success in your business!

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Tags:  Access to Capital  entre  finance  financing  small biz  small business 

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How To Detect Fraudulent Activity on Your Merchant Account

Posted By Gabriel Salcido, Arizona Small Business Association, Thursday, July 23, 2015

Credit card fraud is on the rise as thieves develop even more inventive ways of stealing financial data for unauthorized purchases. The introduction of EMV credit cards is helping to prevent fraudulent activity within brick-and-mortar retail environments. However, in the online world, the security features that come with these chip-enabled cards offer limited protection.

As a result, experts predict that Web-based credit card fraud could reach $6.4 billion by 2018.

Some payment processors offer fraud protection to help limit your liability. Though a far more cost-effective solution is to prevent credit card fraud from happening in the first place. Because even when charges are reversed, you still pay a price in terms of:

  • Lost time
  • Extra paperwork
  • Diminished consumer confidence

These hidden costs are sometimes three times more than the dollar amount of whatever fraud took place.

Below are some best practices you can adopt to limit the amount of fraud that occurs within your payment environment:

1. Basic Fraud Detection Steps

"Card not present" transactions are the norm in e-commerce. You simply have to trust that the true holder of the card is authorizing each transaction. However, you can still ask for information that potential hackers might not have, including:

Address Verification

In addition to the 16-digit credit card number, you should also request a working address for each transaction. More specifically, you should verify the following:

  • Does the billing address match the contact information provided by the card-issuing bank?
  • Is the customer trying to use a different shipping address (if ordering physical items)?

 

Card Verification Value (CVV)

Most consumer credit cards come with a three or four-digit value that allows you to verify whether the card is truly present. Don’t authorize any transactions unless the customer can provide the correct CVV code.

2. Country-Specific Transactions

With more advanced payment processing solutions, you can use country-specific IP filters to block or accept certain transactions:

Geo IP Tracking

This option allows you to automatically reject transactions from whichever countries you choose. For example, you can eliminate all purchases made from France, Japan or Canada.

Card Issuing Country

With "card issuing country" filters, you have even greater control. This feature allows you to only accept a payment if the card was issued in countries that you specifically select. For example, your account only allows purchases made with French, Japanese or Canadian credit cards.

3. Advanced Fraud Detection Features

There are times when thieves do have the right address and CVV code, and using proxies, they can circumvent traditional IP-detection.

This is when you need to rely on more advanced security features:

Negative Database Security

Similar to spam detection, negative database security allows you to match each transaction against a list of high-risk card numbers and contact information.

Quotas and Thresholds

Set up your payment environment to only accept transactions above and below a certain amount. Anything outside of this range automatically gets rejected.

Unusual Buying Patterns

Limit the number of transactions that can take place within a certain timeframe. With some "velocity" filters, you can even flag certain IP addresses and dollar amounts to gain more control.

Paused Transactions

Using a variety of filters, you can automatically put a hold on suspicious transactions. This is particularly useful for big-ticket items — especially when dealing with conveniently round numbers. Don't let these transactions go through until you've had a chance to contact the cardholder directly.

Looking for More Fraud Detection Tips?

At BluePay, we specialize in online payment security. With our advanced processing solutions, we can help you detect and prevent online fraud before it happens.

To learn more, schedule a free appointment with our payment security team today.

Tags:  financing  fradulent  MERCHANT SERVICES  protection 

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