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Repair Shop Advice

How to Lose Your Auto Repair Business in One Transaction

July 22, 2019

A man you’ve never met rides up in a nice truck, and explains he’s a new fleet operator getting ready to set up in town.  He’s looking for a dependable auto repair shop to provide service for his fleet vehicles, and he’s heard good things about your shop. 

After a 20-minute chat about pricing and service times, he says he’s going to give your business a shot.  He’ll start running work through there in a couple of weeks.  Right now, however, he’s looking to stock some tires for his long haul trucks.  Can you order a couple dozen commercial tires for him?  He’s got a credit card, and he’s happy to pay on delivery and pick them up himself.

If you’re a bit short on business, this is an opportunity that’s hard to pass up.  But it’s probably not an opportunity at all, and you should definitely pass it up.  That’s because the odds are high that the credit card is stolen, and by the time you get the call from the bank about that fraudulent credit card, those tires will be three states away.  You’re stuck with the $30,000 chargeback, and the rage that comes with having no recourse against the criminal who stole the tires from you in broad daylight.

This is just one example of how small businesses can get caught in the middle an expensive scam – and business scams are becoming faster and more sophisticated every day: 

  • Shop computers can get infected with ransomware, and your customer data can be held ransom for thousands of dollars.
  • Employees can quit and take your customer list with them, handing it to their new employer to advertise to them without you ever realizing it.
  • “Customers” can walk in to your shop, see a username and password next to your computer, and use that access to gather the information they need to try and steal your business identity and your money with it.

These types of attacks have been big news for big businesses for years.  But they’re increasingly targeting small businesses, too, in large part because smaller businesses don’t yet have the same safeguards in place to prevent these attacks.  And while you can’t let paranoia prevent you from doing business, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you aren’t bankrupted by a single bad decision:

  • Don’t take credit cards from new customers for large part purchases.
  • Make sure you have a reliable, always up-to-date anti-virus program on your shop computers.
  • Don’t leave sensitive data such as usernames and passwords out in the open, and don’t allow full-database export rights to every employee in your shop.

Most importantly, if someone shows up to your shop offering the deal of a lifetime, approach it with a healthy amount of skepticism.  It only takes one bad deal to cost you the business that you’ve put a lifetime of work into.

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