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Getting a social security number

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by DFW Area Landscaper, Oct 12, 2003.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    Has anyone ever attempted to get your customer's social secuity number when they sign up for service?

    I've been seriously considering getting a new contract printed up that has a place for the customer's social security number.

    My thinking is this: If they don't pay, I simply turn the balance due over to a collection agency. The collection agency could then mark them as a dead beat with the professional systems like Equifax or TRW...at least I think they could.

    At least it would give me some amount of leverage to collect.

    And when they go to refinance their mortgage or something like that, the balance due would have to be cleared up.

    As for customers who might balk at this, I would explain that I don't run a credit check or anything at all like that. It's my security in the event that they won't pay. If they have a problem with this, I guess I'd have to pass on the business. The phone company has my ss#. My mortgage company has my ss#. My credit cards have my SS#. It's a normal part of obtaining credit in today's society. They expect me to do work on credit...this is really totally normal. I have a professional image...my truck is lettered...I have pre-printed form contracts...I always wear a professional uniform when I'm doing business. I doubt many would balk, but I don't know what to expect, really.

    I've noticed that people tend to simply take advantage of me. Especially after they cancel service...I'm finding that I only get paid on time after they cancel about 30% of the time. These people know that if they don't pay me, nothing bad is going to happen...service can't be discontinued any longer because they've already cancelled.

    I know, I know. I need to start stopping by their homes in the evenings in person to collect. But it's just a pain in the @$$ and asking for money isn't something I enjoy doing.

    Any thoughts?

    Later,
    DFW Area Landscaper
     
  2. bmahaffey0

    bmahaffey0 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 6

    Personally I don't give my SS# out to anyone unless it is absolutely required. I think that with the amount of security concern with identity theft you will hard pressed to have a lot of people comply with your requests for SS#s.

    You stated that you have a professional image and your company is 100% legit but what you didn't mention was what you were going to do to protect the SS#s that you obtain.

    If they are stored on a computer are they protected with EFS or certificates so that only you can view them? Do you have a firewall and up to date virus definitions to protect from hackers and viruses? Do you apply all the lastest updates to your computers to protect against being hacked, etc?

    If you don't store the SS#s on a computer what are you doing to protect those numbers?

    These are a few things that I thought of as soon as I read your post, and I am sure there are plenty other things that customers can come up with.

    Check out the following link regarding private businesses requesting SS#s. You do not have to give them your number but many make you feel as if you do.

    http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs10-ssn.htm
     
  3. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    I read the link on the privacy issues. I have been totally against the use of the social security number for credit checks, etc. It's become nothing more than a serial number. And I hate the fact that with these credit reporting agencies, the consumer is assumed guilty until they prove themselves innocent.

    However, I can't solve that problem.

    As for security, their social security number will go into my paper files and will never be used or referred to again unless I don't get paid. I won't enter this information into any PC's or anything like that, so no one can hack into cable modem and get them.

    I just think it's too easy for a consumer to stiff a small business person because we aren't connected with the credit reporting agencies. These consumers know that if they even pay late with the big banks, their credit will be harmed...plus the big banks will hit them hard with illegal, usurious late fees. Yet, if they pay the little bitty lawn guy late, or not at all, unless he brings suite, they get away with it.

    When my wife and I bought our house, there were a few late pays on my wifes social security number. She had to basically write a letter addressing these issues and explain why she was late. If there had been a record from "Joe Blow's Lawn Care" for non-payment, she would have had to pay off "Jow Blow's Lawn Care" before we could have been allowed to borrow the mortgage money.

    I may try this out next spring and just see how it goes. If I'm losing business due to the SS# requirement, I can always go back to my current contracts.

    I just wish I had some leverage with these deadbeats. I just started in January, and I'm in a situation now where it looks like I'll have to start stopping by peoples' homes in the evenings to collect what they owe me. Basically, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and I need to start squeaking....but this does require additional time and effort for which I will not be paid.

    Alternatively, here in Texas, I could sue everyone of these deadbeats in small claims court and file a constitutional lien on their property for 100% of what they owe me as well as the court and county clerk filing fees. When they do pay, it'll be bear interest too.

    The only problem is, with either of these methods (ss# and suing), they get away without paying by filing bankruptcy.

    Later,
    DFW Area Landscaper
     
  4. lawnman_scott

    lawnman_scott LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,547

    A better, and eisier solution will be to collect one month in advance, and dont let them get behind. Im sure you will find that getting paid one month in advance will be easier than getting a ss #.
     
  5. bmahaffey0

    bmahaffey0 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 6

    Do you have any disclaimers on your invoices? Mine states that there is a $25 service fee for any returned checks and 21% interest is applied to any outstanding balances past 60 days. At least this way the customer are aware that after x days interest starts compounding.

    You will always have customers that are harder to get money out of than others. If you aren't servicing their accounts any longer a couple 2am calls may get the check in the mail. lol
     
  6. Rustic Goat

    Rustic Goat LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,194

    If I were a potential customer of yours and you asked me for my SS# on the contract, I'd not only tell you to take a hike, I'd also get any info I had on you including your vehicle tag number and start checking out all of your references, BBB, biz license, etc.
    If any red flags popped up, I'd be calling the authorities.
    Hands off the SS#.
     
  7. SWD

    SWD LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 989

    DFW, you could try the SS# thing, however, I agree that it presents more of a hurdle than a benefit.
    As far a collecting goes, stop by the JP's office where these deadbeats are located and file on them.
    I would really be careful about going to someone's home requesting payment more than once. Perhaps, stop by once, follow up with a call if the money isn't received. Still no money, file on them.
     
  8. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,697

    I agree, Rustic. I have several credit cards and I NEVER put my SSN on the application. Every company called to say they could not process the app. I said "fine, I don't need your card anyways". They said "OK, we can use your drivers license # instead". NEVER give out a SSN, it's not necessary.
     
  9. Keith Howells

    Keith Howells LawnSite Member
    Posts: 41

    When I used to do a lot more monthly maintenance, I would get a credit card number from those that hadn't been with me for more than one year. After one year of regular pays etc, I didn't bother to update the information and never got stiffed.

    Anyway, for the new accounts, I told them if I wasn't paid within two weeks, I would stop service and charge the card for what was owed to me. Seemed to work fairly well and Quickbooks handled the credit card transaction rather easily.
     
  10. Green in Idaho

    Green in Idaho LawnSite Senior Member
    from Idaho
    Posts: 833

    A SS# is not necessary for credit agencies.

    For someone who subscribes to such services, they can get YOUR SS# with just your address and name. It doesn't even have to be your current address. That is based on first-hand experience- as in finding someone's # through that route.

    That is why they call them DATA bases. :(
     

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