Tag Archives: Michelle Lauer

Employee Theft

Identity Thieves Targeting the Deceased: Plan Now

Identity theft is always a difficult and frustrating situation and could take many years to repair the damage done to one’s credit. However, today millions of Americans are being haunted with an even more disturbing situation: learning that a criminal is using the identity of a deceased loved one to apply for credit.

An ID Analytics study determined 2.5 million deceased Americans identities are stolen each year. Targeting the deceased is appealing to identity thieves because it can take up to six months for death records to be registered, giving thieves ample time to rack up charges. Thieves scour through obituaries to obtain the victim’s name, age and birthdate. They are then able to locate the Social Security Number through the Social Security Administration’s list of deceased Americans known as the “Death Master File.”

This could turn out to be quite a headache for surviving family members as they are left to manage the estates of their deceased loved ones. Luckily, a simple yet effective estate plan can safeguard you or your family members if identity theft after death does indeed occur.

For example, storing all important account information within your estate plan and designating a financial power of attorney to monitor your information after death will help reduce the risk of identity theft. It is also crucial to notify the proper Government agencies of one’s death right away which helps limit opportunities for identity theft occurring.

“Be proactive- plan your estate and have everything organized for your family before death so that your loved ones know exactly what needs to happen when you are gone”, said Jaburg Wilk Estate Planning attorney Michelle Lauer.” “An estate planning attorney can assist you in creating a highly effective estate plan which can reduce not only the risk of identity theft but also the hardships for your family”.

Mobile payments - AZ Business Magazine March/April 2012

Mobile Payments – The Pay Of The Future

They’re not here yet, but expect mobile payments to change the way we pay

If your wallet feels thinner in the upcoming months, blame your cell phone, not the down economy. Mobile payments, also called mobile money and mobile wallet, are the future of commerce. If they haven’t already, mobile payments will soon revolutionize the way you receive, spend and monitor your money — no plastic required.

Instead of swiping a conventional debit or credit card when you’re at the grocery store or out to dinner, mobile payments digitize the process. Simply open your smartphone’s finance application and tap your cellphone on the checkout counter’s PayPass terminal.

Voilà, the transaction is complete.

Your cell phone, operating a technology called Near Field Communication, uses a semiconductor chip housed in your smartphone to transfer the payment from a pre-paid or credit card account with the application. Though not many existing smartphones possess NFC technology, few released in 2012 won’t have it.

LG, Panasonic, Microsoft, and Toshiba say they plan to incorporate the technology in their phones soon. Motorola, Samsung, Nokia, BlackBerry and Android released smartphone models with NFC chips in 2011, but most don’t yet have compatible applications on which to perform mobile payments.

Google Wallet, the first major NFC-enabled mobile payments application in America, is only operational on Sprint’s Nexus S 4G (also created by Google), using Citi Mastercard. Naturally, Google plans to support more payment and phone types in the future.

Tailing by a hair, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T plan to launch ISIS — a similar mobile payments system — later this year.

Alas, though the future feels so close, your reimbursing cell might still take a few years, according to a study released by Gartner in July.

Gartner estimates that 50 percent of smart phones will be NFC-enabled by 2015.

“We believe mass market adoption of NFC mobile payments is at least four years away,” says Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner. “The biggest hurdle is the need to change user behavior by convincing consumers to pay with mobile phones instead of cash and cards.”

So, though financial institutions and software providers race to offer NFC, most customers are too accustomed to contemporary payment forms, Gartner speculates. A main motive for consumer hesitation is financial security.

David Peterson, founder of electronic payment software provider Goldleaf, says that fortified firewalls and other electronic gatekeepers make mobile payments quite trustworthy.

“NFC works only for a very small distance, say a few inches,” Peterson says. “By narrowing the field in which NFC works, it enables individual transactions with more accuracy and privacy.

“And, if I lose my phone, I can go to my computer and kill it, remotely,” he says. “I don’t care where it is or who’s got it – I can wipe out anything.”

Despite protective measures to stop fraud from occurring, what if the inevitable happens? Should a customer dispute a mobile transaction, unfortunately, there are only limited regulations regarding liability … for now.

Depending on which application is used and who the provider is, customers have different levels of protection.

“People need to be smart, because there’s not been a new prudent body of law saying banks or apps have to offer specific protection,” Peterson says. “If a customer has issues with stuff going on with a bank’s mobile payments application, then there are not any separate regulations that covers them than if they were online, or frankly, in the bank’s lobby … But any time a purchase is made bypassing the bank with a service provider, consumers and businesses should assume that there is not much protection of liability.”

For banks, customer liability isn’t the biggest problem. It’s staying modern.

Companies who have successfully created NFC mobile money applications, like Google Wallet, will determine banks’ and financial software companies’ relevance in the increasingly pertinent world of smartphones.

Eric Haler, retailer market manager at Bank of Arizona, says that after Bank of Arizona developed its iPhone, Android and iPad mobile banking applications last year, they quickly became indispensable.

“It’s definitely been good for business, and is certainly something clients like to have,” Haler says. “Now, for customers, it’s an expectation instead of a luxury.”

However, like most mobile money applications, Bank of Arizona’s does not yet use NFC technology, and customers’ smartphones cannot be used in lieu of a credit card.

“I haven’t heard of anyone leaving their bank over that or even really needing that feature, but obviously a lot of people are using it and it’s growing so it’ll be important to see that we keep up,” Haler says.

Keeping up, however, is an enormous undertaking. In today’s world of fleeting modernity and ever-evolving technological horizons, it can be hard to know in which direction to shoot.

Some companies, skeptical of NFC’s practicality, are skipping NFC entirely. Instead of following the latest trend, their finances operate with cloud computing.

Scottsdale-based Apriva LLC, a mobile payments processing and security service provider founded in 1987, says it looks ahead of NFC for the future of mobile commerce.

“Many people believe it’s going to grow rapidly over the next 50 years and become an important page in technology’s history. But today, it’s a just fraction of the market,” says Paul Coppinger, Apriva’s president. “Yes, our applications work with NFC, but the deeper end is they don’t have to use NFC. We’re independent of that fact, because our wallet isn’t built into the point of sale or phone, it’s in the cloud.”

Cloud computing, a wireless system of sharing via servers and the internet, doesn’t require additional hardware.

“With NFC, if you want advanced mobile payments capabilities, you have to get a special phone with NFC in it and merchants need to use it, too,” Coppinger says. “When you take all those special things and net them together… it’s impractical.”

Whether NFC is fleeting or conducts your finances forever, mobile, contactless payments are imminent.

Arizona Business Magazine March/April 2012

Owners of My Sisters consignment business - AZ Business Magazine March/April 2012

My Sister’s Consignment Business Expands Into California

Three siblings’ lucrative consignment business expands into California

From the moment you meet these three entrepreneurs, it’s obvious they’re sisters.
Articulate, well-dressed and blonde, they are undeniably of the same distinctive breed.

Ann Siner, Jennifer Siner and Tess Loo are the siblings behind Eco-Chic Consignments, Inc., better known to Valley shoppers as My Sister’s Closet, My Sister’s Attic and Well Suited. The sisters’ venture into consignment retailing has proven to be wildly successful, growing into a resale empire with revenue totaling more that $16 million in 2010, employing about 200 fashion-forward thinkers, catapulting the sisters into the forefront of Phoenix fashion, and changing the way Valley consumers shop.

“We shaped the face of retail in Phoenix,” says CEO, founder and oldest sister Ann Siner. “We have made it more acceptable to buy recycled.”

In 1991, the sisters — stocked with clothes they literally pulled out of their friends’ and siblings’ closets — opened My Sister’s Closet, an upscale consignment store with designer labels and strikingly low price tags, at Towne & Shopping Center in Phoenix’s Camelback Corridor. They soon expanded into Scottsdale and now have 10 locations in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Chandler. In 2011, the sisters opened two new stores in San Diego.

“What helped us succeed was changing the image of the resale store from the three Ds — dark, dirty, and dingy,” Ann Siner says, “to the three Cs — cute, clean and current.”

After finding success with their women’s resale clothing store, the sisters listened to the copious requests from customers for vintage furniture and opened My Sister’s Attic in 1999. Next came their men’s apparel store in 2001, which the women dubbed Well Suited.

“If I can just get you in the door, you will see that we are not your typical resale store,” Ann Siner says. “We will convert you into a resale shopper.”

The sisters have helped turned a lot of consumers into converts since the financial crisis hit in 2007. Diminishing disposable incomes, the appeal of stylish vintage pieces, and trends that favored sustainability fueled the sisters’ businesses.

“Our sales went through the roof,” says Jennifer Siner, co-founder and youngest sister.

Whereas five years ago designer bag-toting fashionistas would have scoffed at consignment shops and fled to Barney’s, today they shop resale. And they come in droves.

In a down economy, Eco-Chic Consignments has increased revenue by an average of 20 percent annually over the past four years. For the sisters, it’s a sign.

“Now is not the time to sit back and say we’ve done it all,” says Ann Siner. “We’ve got to keep looking forward, look at what’s new, listen to people, their feedback, and always look for what we can do to make it better.”

The sisters’ goal is to keep expanding in San Diego and duplicate the success and expansion they have accomplished in Phoenix.

“It’s been well received and people love shopping (at My Sister’s Closet),” Ann Siner says, “so we want to open more stores in San Diego and then hopefully just keep working up the coast.”

My Sister’s Closet
2033 E Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85016

Arizona Business Magazine March/April 2012