Posts Tagged ‘Ohio CPA Firm’

How Prepared Is Your Business For A Potential IT Disaster?

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Natural disasters. Hardware meltdowns. New variants of viruses and malware. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where anything can happen. It’s critical that your business is on its toes, ready to tackle any potential disaster or crisis that may come your way. But is it? If your business’s computer systems crashed tomorrow, how easy (or even possible) would it be for your business to recover? Has your business ever given thought to a disaster recovery (DR) plan? Do you have one of these plans?

It’s National Preparedness Month. A month where government agencies and businesses alike work to educate companies and organizations about the importance of being prepared whatever may come your business’s way. In honor of this month, below are five reasons why your business should create (if you don’t have one) a disaster recovery plan

Top 5 Reasons For A IT Disaster Recovery Plan

A Gartner report estimates that only 35 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) actually have a working and comprehensive DR plan. And from its research, Gartner also found that 40 percent of SMBs that manage their networks and Internet usage in-house will have their networks hacked, and more than 50 percent won’t know they were hacked. Pretty sobering statistics, right? There are many reasons why having a DR plan is a wise business move. In fact, here are the top five reasons why a DR plan is imperative to the success of your business:

  1. You can’t control when a disaster happens – it can happen at any time. Disasters can be natural or man-made – either way, you don’t have control over when it could happen. A DR plan will help you be prepared for anything at any time.
  2. A DR plan can help you save thousands, possibly even millions, of dollars in the event of a disaster. When a disaster strikes, it’s usually not a cheap fix. Depending on its severity, many businesses’ budgets are hit quite hard. And if this is an unexpected expense, it’s that much harder to make a complete recovery.
  3. You can mitigate your losses with a DR plan. Money isn’t the only thing at stake during a disaster. Don’t forget about the trust and confidence of your customers, employees, investors, vendors – the list goes on. A DR plan can help you retain your critical audiences during a disaster.
  4. A DR plan can help you reduce confusion among your staff and audiences. When a disaster hits, imagine the confusion and uncertainty that comes with it. In some cases, it may seem like you have no control over the situation. A DR plan can help you have an organized approach to resolving the disaster.
  5. The government may require businesses within your industry to develop and utilize a DR plan. If your business handles sensitive customer information or other information that could be critical if lost, the government may require you to have a formal DR plan, which should include yearly testing of offsite back-up recovery data.

Does your business have a DR plan? If not, you need to create one. Email Rea & Associates for more information about what to include in your plan. If you already have one in place, first pat yourself on the back, and then review it to ensure that it reflects your business’s current environment. Detailed and tested plans are imperative to the successful recovery and even for the longevity of your business.

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Fraud Hotlines Deter Occupational Fraud

Monday, August 25th, 2014

When it comes to your business or organization, you are passionate about making sure your staff embodies your mission and objectives. You take care to select only the best candidates; and when you find them, you conduct thorough interviews, background checks and offer extensive training and timely performance reviews. Months later, now that you have invested significant resources into finding, training and polishing your new employee, you can finally rest easy knowing that you created a team dedicated to common goals and objectives – right?

Fraud Happens

In its most recent version of The Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) analyzed 1,483 cases of occupational fraud, which resulted in losses totaling more than $3 billion. Of those cases, the ACFE found that businesses with 100 employees or less are more susceptible to financial losses as a result of the three categories of occupational fraud – corruption, asset misappropriation and financial statement fraud.

Here’s A Tip

Maybe, like so many other business owners, you have already considered these facts and have taken steps to deter fraud in your own offices by establishing and implementing codes of conduct and external audits. While those measures provide a good foundation, you may be surprised to learn that of the nearly 1,500 cases of fraud that were reviewed, auditing only revealed a few instances of fraud. On the other hand, 42 percent of these cases were detected by tips. These tips were frequently reported on fraud hotlines and resulted in a 50 percent quicker response time when it came to detecting and stopping fraud.

The Value of a Fraud Hotline

Be proactive about fraud prevention, instead of reacting when you’re caught in the middle of it. A fraud reporting hotline service, such as Red Flag Reporting, has helped clients stay informed about what’s going on in their businesses. Services like Red Flag provide businesses with an opportunity to focus on building relationships, increasing revenue and improving community outreach instead of chasing down occupational fraud in the workplace.

Fraud hotlines are utilized by small and large businesses alike and can help identify and deter other types of unethical behavior before it grows out of control. Fraud hotlines can result in:

  • Fewer OSHA violations
  • Lower Workers’ Compensation costs
  • A decreased likelihood of employment practices lawsuits
  • Zero-tolerance of discrimination in the workplace

Not all employees are bad and not everybody is looking for an opportunity to financially ruin their employer. In fact, fraud hotlines are great because they prove that you are have a team made up of responsible, honest, hard-working men and women. These professionals are the eyes and ears of your business or organization and you not only depend on them to help identify instances of fraud, you need them to report issues to you before they explode into situations that severely damage your financial well-being, employee morale and reputations. By providing your team with a hotline, they will be even more inclined to provide you with a tip or two without feeling like they are rocking the boat.

Are you concerned about the potential for fraud in your organization? Email Rea & Associates to learn more about how a fraud hotline could work for you.

Author: Annie Yoder, CPA, CFE, CFF (New Philadelphia office)

 

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New Form of Malware Catching Retailers Off Guard

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Last week, UPS announced that 51 of its stores were infected by point-of-sale (POS) malware that has been affecting other retailers across the U.S. In total, UPS estimates that approximately 105,000 POS transactions were comprised in the data breach, leaving many customers’ financial and contact information exposed, increasing their risk of identity theft and fraud.

POS malware, known as Backoff, was identified last week as having targeted a New Orleans restaurant, a much smaller retailer than UPS. On July 31, several government agencies sent out an alert about Backoff. The alert explained the risks that Backoff posed to U.S. businesses, including smaller merchants, and that this new form of malware was found to infect POS systems via access to a remote-access portal.

And just a few days ago, the U.S. Secret Service announced that an estimated 1,000 businesses have been infected by Backoff. Now the Department of Homeland Security is encouraging all businesses – no matter the size – to scan their POS systems to check for a possible compromise.

While these recent incidents may not affect you or your business directly, the discovery of this new form of malware should cause you to stop and assess your business’s IT security situation. Do you have the right security protocols in place to protect your business – and your customers – from a potential data breach?

How To Protect Your Business From A Data Breach

Your mind may be far from thinking about your business’s IT environment. You’re probably focused more on the day-to-day operations of your business and serving your customers. But think of protecting your business’s IT environment as one way of serving your customers. By protecting your IT systems, you are helping ensure that your customers’ personal and financial data is safe. Here are some ways you can protect your business’s IT environment:

  • Use End Point Protection monitoring to verify that all workstations are current on their virus definition files and OS patches.
  • Make sure all servers are patched with the most current operating system security patches.
  • Employ a vendor to complete penetration testing to find any open avenues to your network.
  • Consider implementing Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) or Security Information & Event Management (SIEM) applications. Many companies utilize IDS/SIEM to monitor their incoming and outgoing network traffic. If the expense is too great or you don’t have qualified personnel, then consider a vendor to provide the service. Many vendors provide these services at a very reasonable price.
  • Review the Mitigation and Prevention Strategies of the Department of Homeland Security July 31, 2014, announcement of the Backoff malware.

The Cost of Protecting Your Customers

What cost is too much to protect my customers’ data? Only you can answer this question. UPS and the restaurant have chosen to pay for identity theft and credit monitoring services for customers who may have been affected from their data breaches (a data breach-related expense many companies don’t consider). But take that one step further. What cost is too much to protect my business’s reputation? In order for your company to survive in today’s digital world, it’s critical for your business to cultivate a culture of trust with your customers. Many businesses find that they’ll do what it takes to prevent security breaches. What will you do?

Want more IT tips? Check out other articles that provide best practices on how to secure your business’s IT environment.

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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When Scammers Demand That You Pay Up, IRS Says You Should Hang Up

Monday, August 18th, 2014

More than 1,000 American taxpayers have collectively lost about $5 million as a result of a recent phone scam that has been reported to be active in virtually every corner of the nation. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reminds everybody to be vigilant, to never give personal financial information to anybody over the phone, and to report instances of phone scams to the IRS and/or to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

According to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”

To date, more than 90,000 complaints regarding the scam have been made to the IRS and TIGTA.

Signs of An IRS Phone Scam

A media release, sent Aug. 13, reports that scammers will use fake names and IRS badge numbers, are able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s social security number, and spoof the IRS’ toll-free number on caller IDs so that the calls appear legitimate. Victims reported that they were threatened with jail time or driver’s license revocation if they refused to comply with demands. After hanging up, scammers call back claiming to be local law enforcement or a DMV representative. The second phone call is supposed to reinforce their original claim and demands.

Don’t Be An IRS Phone Scam Victim

  • If you think you might owe taxes or that there may be an issue with your taxes, call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040. An authorized IRS representative can help you determine if you have a payment due.
  • If you get a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you know that you have no IRS issues, report the incident to TIGTA at (800) 366-4484. You should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use its “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Be sure to add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
  • Don’t let scammers catch you off your guard with questions about your tax history. Call your CPA and be confident about whether you owe money to the IRS or not. When it comes to your financial security, take a proactive approach.

Email Rea & Associates if you’re ever unsure about anything you received from the IRS, whether it is a letter, a phone call or an email. We can help you determine if the inquiry is legitimate.

By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

Looking for other articles on how you can protect yourself and your business? We recommend these:

How Can I Protect My Business From A Data Security Breach?

Are You Secure? Cyber Security Targets Employee Benefit Accounts

How Do You Protect Yourself From Identity Theft?

 

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Supreme Court Obamacare Ruling Provides Religious Exemption To For-Profit Companies

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Obamacare is back in the news as a top story! Why? Because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that closely held, for-profit companies can claim religious exemption to avoid providing health insurance coverage for contraceptives.

An Obamacare provision stated that businesses with more than 50 employees must cover preventive care services, including birth control and morning-after pills to female employees. Today’s Supreme Court ruling provides relief for many U.S. for-profit companies by giving way to this religious exemption. Now companies that feel offering health insurance the covers contraceptives goes against their religious beliefs can opt out of providing this kind of coverage. Check out this New York Times article which provides a more in-depth look at the today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling.  Of course, its too early to tell the practical impact of this decision – insurance companies are free to choose which kind of coverage is covered by their insurance plans, and the relative pricing of those plans, after all.

Obamacare Help

Do you feel like today’s Supreme Court ruling could impact your business and the health insurance coverage you offer to your employees? If it does, and you need help, contact Rea & Associates. Our health care reform tax experts can help you determine how it affects you and your business.

Author: Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

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