It is with a heavy heart that I write this post. I found out today that the owner of an entertainment company located in Denver, CO, and that specializes in Dueling Pianos and DJ services, was accused of lots of nasty things having to do with credit card fraud and check fraud. According to the indictment, he used his clients’ credit card and checking account information to fraudulently extract money from his clients’ accounts. One of these client-victims targeted was allegedly the United States Air Force Academy. There were other charges listed that involved writing fraudulent checks, and opening up checking and credit card accounts in the names of his unsuspecting employees. The indictment goes on to allege that he used $3,000 of these ill-gotten funds to purchase an online service to “protect and enhance online reviews of a business and/or a person.” Ironic and sad.
More about the story HERE:
How do you as a prospective purchaser of entertainment services protect your information and your credit card or checking account information? These are important questions when dealing with any business, especially small businesses that you have no prior experience with. For the record, I own a small entertainment business and more than half of my private event clients are new clients that have never dealt with me before, and developing my client’s trust early on is imperative.
One of the ways I try to protect my clients is to never see their credit card information. My credit card processing company allows me to create an invoice with a secure link for my clients to pay the bank directly. In this way no one in my company has access to credit card numbers, expiration dates, CVV codes. I prefer it this way.
According to the indictment, another method this guy may have used was to ask for permission to access their checking account directly using ACH transfers. After granting a company permission to debit your bank account via an ACH transfer, you have essentially opened the door for an offender to go back in and take out more money from these accounts.
If you’ve never dealt with a business before, any business, and you have the tiniest bit of concern, do not hand over your credit card information over the phone, fax or email for them to process it. Insist your vendor uses a third party processor (i.e. Paypal, GigMasters, GigSalad) that you can directly enter your credit card information into online without handing the information over to an employee of the company.
What about checking accounts? ACH (American Clearing House) transfers can be done two ways. You can give a entertainment company permission to debit your account (they reach into your account to get the funds), or you can grant your bank permission to send out the money to your entertainment company. These both accomplish the same thing, but with the first, you have to give someone your bank account number, bank routing number and name on the account, whereas with the second, you are directing your bank to pay the business, but the entertainer never has access to your sensitive information, making it much safer. Experts advise you to treat your bank account numbers with the same sensitivity and concern for privacy as you do with your Social Security number and birth date information.
The vast majority of entertainers and event professionals are honest and extremely protective of their clients information. We rely on referrals and good will to continue doing business in an industry where everyone talks to each other and an age where your reputation follows you. It’s a crying shame to hear of a fellow dueling piano company breaking the trust like this. This is very rare…but the lessons are real.