Sales Receipts, Invoices, and Statements in QuickBooks

QuickBooks allows you to create multiple types of sales forms for different situations. Here’s a look at what they are and when to use them.

When you buy something at a store, you want a piece of paper that shows what you purchased and what you paid. If you receive products or services before you pay for them, you certainly expect to receive a bill. And if you have several transactions with the same company and want clarification on what you’ve paid, and what you owe for a specific time period, the company can usually send you a summary.

Your customers want the same things. That financial documentation might be difficult for you to provide if you’re still doing your accounting manually on paper.

Fortunately, QuickBooks has a solution. Or, rather, several solutions. The software includes templates for all of the sales forms that you’ll probably ever need: invoices, sales receipts, and statements. Here’s an introduction to when and how to use them.

Sales Receipts

When a customer pays you on the spot, you can create a sales receipt.

When you receive full payment for a product or service at the time of the sale, the correct form to use in QuickBooks is the Sales Receipt. Click the Create Sales Receipts icon on the home page or open the Customers menu and select Enter Sales Receipts. You’ll see a form like the partial one pictured above.

Click the down arrow in the Customer:Job field and select the correct one or <Add New>. If you assign transactions to Classes, pick the right one in that list. The Template field should default to the appropriate form. If you’ve created more than one sales receipt template, select the one that you want. Click the icon above the correct payment type.

Tip: Want to be able to accept credit cards and eChecks? You’re likely to get paid faster by some customers. You’ll also be able to accept payments on your smartphone or tablet and create receipts. Talk to us about adding this capability.

Select the appropriate Item(s) from that drop-down list and enter a Qty (Quantity). Be sure to apply the sale’s Tax status by opening that list. (If you know that you’re responsible for paying sales tax on at least some of your sales but you haven’t set this tracking up in QuickBooks yet, we can work with you on that. It’s important.) When you’ve finished filling in the table with all the goods or services you sold, you can save the transaction and either print it or email it to your customer.


After you’ve completed the top half of an invoice, you’ll see something like this at the bottom.

You’ll create and send Invoices to customers when you’ve received either a partial payment or no payment at the time of the sale. Those completed transactions become a part of your total Accounts Receivable (money owed to you). Click Create Invoices on the home page or go to Customers | Create Invoices. Fill out the fields at the top of the screen like you did with your sales receipt; the forms are almost the same. Invoices, though, have Bill To and Ship To addresses, as well as fields for the sale’s Terms and Due Date.

You shouldn’t have to do anything with the bottom half of the screen (pictured above) unless you want to include a Customer Message, since the information here is carried over from the top of the screen. Check to make sure the Tax Code is correct, though.

It’s important to note, it’s an either/or situation when it comes to creating an invoice and a sales receipt for the same transaction. It’s best to not use sales receipts for invoice payments, as it can cause issues.


When you create statements, you’ll first choose the customers who should receive them.

Statements are very useful when you have multiple customers who are past due on their payments (you can find this out by running the A/R Aging Summary report, which you’ll find under Reports | Customers & Receivables). Click the Statements link on the home page or go to Customers | Create Statements.  You’ll first have to select the customer(s) who should be on your list, as pictured above. There are several other options on this page that will help you refine this group. When you’re done, QuickBooks will automatically generate them, and you can print or email them.

You’ll save a lot of time when you use QuickBooks’ sales forms. Your bookkeeping will also be more accurate, and it will be easier to track down specific transactions. If you use them conscientiously, you’ll be able to run reports that provide comprehensive overviews of various elements of your finances.

Do you have questions about any of this, or are you just getting started with QuickBooks? We’re happy to schedule a consultation to determine what your needs are and how we can assist. Contact us, and we’ll set something up.

Dealing with Deposits in QuickBooks

Dealing with Deposits in QuickBooks

Where do the payments you receive in QuickBooks go? The software provides tools for managing deposits.

Recording payments, whether they come in to comply with an invoice you sent or are issued as sales receipts, is one of the more satisfying tasks you do in QuickBooks. The sales cycle is almost complete, and you’re about to have more money in the bank – once you document the payments as bank deposits.

Unless you use QuickBooks Payments, which moves your company’s remittances into an account automatically, you’ll have to deal with your deposits twice. First, you’ll have to make out a deposit slip for the bank. You’ll also need to record the deposit in QuickBooks itself.

Fortunately, the software makes this easy for you. Here’s how it works.

A Special Account

By default, QuickBooks transfers payments received into an account called Undeposited Funds. You can see it in your Chart of Accounts by clicking the Chart of Accounts icon on QuickBooks’ home page and scrolling down a bit. Look over to the end of the line and you’ll see its current balance. This account is an Other current asset. It holds your payments until you record them as deposits and take your money to the bank.

When you’re getting ready to take cash and checks to the bank, click the Record Deposits icon on the home page. The Payments to Deposit window will open.

When money moves into Undeposited Funds from invoice payments or sales receipts, it’s displayed in the Payments to Deposit window.

We recommend completing your physical deposit slip first, based on the checks and cash you have in hand. Then, match them to payments in the window pictured above. You can click in front of each one you’ve matched to create a checkmark. When you’ve finished, click OK. The Make Deposits window will open. Make sure that the account you want to Deposit to is showing in the upper left corner. You can add a Memo and change the Date if needed.

Do you want cash back from your deposit? You may want to move this to Petty Cash, for example. Click the down arrow in the Cash goes back to field and select the correct account. Add a memo if necessary and enter the Cash back amount. When you’re done, save the transaction. QuickBooks now knows that you’re taking a deposit slip to the bank.

The total for your handwritten deposit slip and the final tally in the Make Deposits window should be the same. This will ensure that the amount deposited in your bank account will match the bank deposit amount in QuickBooks when reconciling. If you have leftover cash or checks, you’ll need to track down their origins and create new transactions.

Checking Your Work

It’s a good idea to check your Undeposited Funds account occasionally to make sure that you haven’t left money undeposited. To do this, open your Chart of Accounts again. Right-click Undeposited Funds and click on QuickReport: [number] Undeposited Funds. All should be selected in the Date field in the upper left. Click on Customize Report and select the Filters tab. Scroll down in the Filters list and click on Cleared. Select No and click OK to display your report.

You can customize your QuickReport to see if you’ve neglected to deposit any payments. If this list contains any, open the Banking menu and select Make Deposits to follow the steps above again.

 Changing Your Destination Account

As we’ve already mentioned, QuickBooks is set up to automatically move payments into Undeposited Funds. We recommend leaving it this way so you can easily check for money that hasn’t been deposited. You can change this, though. If you feel it’s necessary, let us know, and we’ll help you modify your destination account.

Working with Payment Methods

QuickBooks comes with a default set of payment methods. You can add to these and/or make existing ones inactive, so they don’t clutter up the drop-down list. Open the Lists menu and select Customer & Vendor Profile Lists | Payment Method List. If you don’t accept Discover cards, for example, right-click on that entry and select Make Payment Method Inactive. To add one, click the down arrow next to Payment Method and then New. The Payment Method should always match the Payment Type.

Precision Critical

Account reconciliation is difficult enough without having to deal with deposit discrepancies. Treat this element of your accounting with great care and let us know how we can help with account management, financial reporting or any other QuickBooks-related issues. We can troubleshoot – or even take over bookkeeping tasks that are vexing you.

Contact Us


January Reports

5 QuickBooks Reports You Need to Run in January

2020 has begun. Does your accounting to-do list look like a clean slate, or are critical 2019 tasks still looming?

Getting all of your accounting tasks done in December is always a challenge. Besides the vacation time you and your employees probably took for the holidays, there are also year-end, Let’s-wrap-it-up-by-December-31 projects.

How did you do last month? Were you ready to move forward when you got back to the office in January? Or did you run out of time and have to leave some accounting chores undone?

Besides paying bills and chasing payments, submitting taxes and counting inventory in December, there’s another item that should have been on your to-do list: creating end-of-year reports. If you didn’t get this done, it’s not too late. It’s important to have this information as you begin the New Year. QuickBooks can provide it.

A Report Dashboard

You may be using the Reports menu to access the pre-built frameworks that QuickBooks offers. Have you ever explored the Report Center, though? You can get there by clicking Reports in the navigation toolbar or Reports | Report Center on the drop-down menu at the top of the screen.

QuickBooks’ Report Center introduces you to all of the software’s report templates and helps you access them quickly.

As you can see in the image above, the Report Center divides QuickBooks’ reports into categories and displays samples of each. Click on one of the tabs at the top if you want to:

  • Memorize a report using any customization you applied.
  • Designate a report as a Favorite.
  • See a list of the most Recent reports you ran.
  • Explore reports beyond those included with QuickBooks, Contributed by Intuit or other parties.

Recommended Reports

Here are the reports we think you should run as soon as possible if you didn’t have a chance to in December:

Budget vs Actual

We hope that by now you’ve at least started to create a budget for 2020. If not, the best way to begin is by looking at how close you came to your numbers in 2019. QuickBooks actually offers four budget-related reports, but Budget vs Actual is the most important; it tells you how your actual income and expenses compare to what was budgeted.

Budget Overview is just what it sounds like: a comprehensive accounting of your budget for a given period. Profit & Loss Budget Performance is similar to Budget vs Actual. It compares actual to budget amounts for the month, fiscal year-to-date, and annual. Budget vs Actual Graph provides a visual representation of your income and expenses, giving you a quick look at whether you were over or under budget during specific periods.

Income & Expense Graph

You’ve probably been watching your income and expenses all year in one way or another. But you need to look at the whole year in total to see where you stand. This graph shows you both how income compares to expenses and what the largest sources of each are. It doesn’t have the wealth of customization options that other reports due, but you can view it by date, account, customer, and class.

A/R Aging Detail

QuickBooks’ report templates offer generous customization options.

Which customers still owe you money from 2019? How much? How far past the due date are they? This is a report you should be running frequently throughout the year. Right now, though, you want to clean up all of the open invoices from 2019. A/R Aging Detail will show you who is current and who is 31-60, 61-90, and 91+ days old. You might consider sending Statements to those customers who are way past due.

A/P Aging Detail

Are you current on all of your bills? If so, this report will tell you so. If some bills slipped through the cracks in December, contact your vendors to let them know you’re on it.

Sales by Item Detail

January is a good time to take a good look at what sold and what didn’t in 2019 before you start placing orders for 2020. We hope you’re watching this closely throughout the year, but looking at monthly and annual totals will help you identify trends – as well as winners and losers.

QuickBooks offers some reports in the Company & Financial and Accountant & Taxes categories that you can create, but which really require expert analysis. These include Balance SheetTrial Balance, and Statement of Cash Flows. You need the insight they can offer on at least a quarterly basis, if not monthly. Connect with us, and we can set up a schedule for looking at these.

How to Clean Up Quickbooks for 2020

How to Clean Up QuickBooks for 2020   We know December is a busy month. However, take some time now to make sure QuickBooks is ready for 2020.   Yes, it’s here again: the end of the year. You probably have a lengthy to-do list full of tasks that must be done before December 31. […]

Setting Up Sales Tax in QuickBooks, Part 2

Now that you have your sales taxes set up, you’ll be able to use them in transactions and reports.

Last month, we talked about the process of setting up sales taxes in QuickBooks. To recap a bit, you first have to go to Edit | Preferences | Sales Tax to make sure the software is set up correctly for this use. This means you’ll need to understand exactly what your state and local sales tax rules are. You can learn this by going to your state’s Department of Revenue or Department of Taxation website.

State sales taxes are considered Items in QuickBooks; you create them like you would create product records. When local sales taxes are also required, you can set up Sales Tax Groups. You’ll be assigning these Items as well as Tax Codes to customers.

Using Sales Taxes

Once you have sales taxes set up, you can start using them in transactions. You can create them on the fly from within transactions, but we recommend taking care of this important housekeeping task before you start.

QuickBooks applies the Sales Tax Item or Sales Tax Group that you assigned to the customer on your invoices. You can see the others that are available.

Start by creating an invoice. When you reach the Tax column for your first line item, you’ll see that QuickBooks has already assigned Tax or Non to it based on the information in the item’s record.  You can mix taxable and non-taxable items on the same invoice. You can also add a new sales tax on the fly from the invoice itself. Click the down arrow in the Tax column and select <Add New>.

Be sure you’re not required to pay sales tax on an item when Non is selected. You may not have to charge sales tax on, for example:

  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Out-of state sales
  • Items that your customers will resell

Tip: If you’d like, you can create more specific sales tax codes for these situations. You could use OOS for out-of-state sales, for example, LBR for labor, and NPO for nonprofit organization.

 QuickBooks already includes Sales Tax Codes Tax and Non, but you can add additional ones that are more descriptive.

Be very careful with your sales tax classifications in QuickBooks. As we said last month, such errors will be discovered in a sales tax audit, should you ever be subject to one.

Once you’ve entered all the line items in the invoice, look down toward the bottom of the screen, directly beneath the table containing invoiced items and above the Total. QuickBooks will have calculated the sales tax due using the Sales Tax Item or Group you assigned to that customer during setup, placing it in the Tax field.

Look to the left of those numbers, and you’ll see the actual rate that was applied. To the left of that is a drop-down list containing the correct Sales Tax Item or Sales Tax Group. Click the down arrow if you want to see the list of other options. And in the lower left of the screen, you’ll see the Customer Tax Code.

The Sales Tax Center

The Manage Sales Tax window

 When it’s time to pay sales taxes, you’ll open the Vendors menu and select Sales Tax | Manage Sales Tax. From the screen that opens, you’ll be able to:

  • Access Sales Tax Preferences.
  • Generate sales tax reports that will help you fill out required forms.
  • Visit related screens.

There are two reports you’ll need to run: Sales Tax Liability (displays total sales, amounts that are taxable and at what rates, taxes collected, and how much sales tax is due to each taxing agency) and the Sales Tax Revenue Summary (breaks down total sales into taxable and non-taxable). These reports are, of course, customizable, so you can filter them, for example, by Sales Tax Code.

A Delicate Balance

 Collecting the correct amount of sales tax on taxable items and submitting the right tax totals to the right agencies takes vigilance. You don’t want to charge customers for unnecessary taxes, but you also don’t want to end up paying taxes you should have invoiced out of your own pocket.

We can help you get this straight from the start. It’s much easier to spend some time setting up sales tax accurately in QuickBooks than it is to go back and untangle inaccurate records. Give us a call and we’ll set up a consultation.


Setting Up Sales Taxes in QuickBooks, Part 1

If your business is required to collect and pay sales taxes, you can use QuickBooks’ tools to help you meet those obligations.

Next to payroll, state sales taxes represent probably the most complex element of your accounting tasks. QuickBooks can help with the mechanics, but there’s a lot you need to learn before you can start charging and paying them. For example:

  • Is your company located in a destination-based or origin-based state where taxes are concerned (do you charge sales tax based on where your customers are or where you are)?
  • Certain types of items and services are exempt from sales tax. Are yours?
  • What local taxes (city, county, etc.) must you collect, if any?
  • How often must you submit what you owe, and to what agency?

If you don’t know your state’s rules, search for your Department of Revenue (sometimes called the Department of Taxation) on Google. Or talk to us about this whole complicated process. You can’t begin to work with sales taxes in QuickBooks until you know the answers to many questions.

First Steps

Once you know what your state’s rules are, you can start setting up the sales taxes you’re required to collect and pay. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences. Click on Sales Tax, then Company Preferences. Make sure the Yes button is highlighted next to Do you charge sales tax?, then click on Add sales tax item. You’ll see this window:

In states where it’s required, you may have to at least set up a state sales tax item in QuickBooks. You may also be responsible for local (city, county, etc.) taxes.

TYPE should already be set to Sales Tax Item. Enter a name for your tax in the Sales Tax Name field; the Description should automatically appear as Sales Tax. Type in the Tax Rate (%) and the name of the Tax Agency that will collect it (select <Add New> if it’s not there already). Click OK to return to Company Preferences and continue to define additional tax rates. If there is a sales tax item you use frequently, you can select it from the Your most common sales tax item field.

Tip: Each sales tax rate is considered an Item in QuickBooks. When you have to edit or delete one, open the Lists menu and select Item List. Type sales tax in the Look for box, then Search. Right-click on your target and select your desired action from the local menu that appears.

Sales Tax Groups

When you want to combine multiple sales taxes as one item (state, county, etc.), click Add sales tax item again in Company Preferences and choose Sales Tax Group. Enter a Group Name/Number and Description. In the table below, click the down arrow in the field in the TAX ITEM column. Keep selecting individual tax rates until you’re finished, then click OK. When you use one of these groups in a transaction, the customer will only see the total tax, but reports will break them down into their individual parts.

Completing Your Preferences

The bottom half of the Company Preferences screen needs more information.

It’s important that all the entries at the bottom of the Company Preferences screen are correct before you start working with sales taxes in QuickBooks.

The first two items here are simply field labels that will appear in transactions to indicate whether or not a line item should be taxed. You should leave them as is; they’re automatically created by QuickBooks. If you want to Identify taxable amounts as “T” for Taxable when printing, click in that box to make a checkmark.

Is your QuickBooks company file set up on a cash or accrual basis? Click on the button in front of the correct choice. WHEN DO YOU PAY SALES TAX is a question that will be answered as you’re learning about your state’s sales tax requirements. When you’ve completed this section, click OK.

Assigning Tax Codes

As you create item and service records in QuickBooks, you’ll be asked to indicate whether or not they’re taxable. The Tax Code field appears at the bottom of the window, like in the image below.

You’ll need to designate every item or service you sell as taxable or non-taxable.

There’s much more you need to know about collecting and submitting sales taxes, like how to work with transactions and reports. We’ll cover those topics next month. In the meantime, let us know if we can help you set up your QuickBooks company file for this complex task.


Do you need to collect and pay sales taxes on items and/or services you sell? QuickBooks can help with this task.

Don’t know what the rules are about collecting sales taxes in your state and local area? Google your state’s Department of Revenue then find out how QuickBooks can help with this task.

Did you know sales taxes are considered Items in QuickBooks? You can see your options and start creating them by going to Edit | Preferences | Sales Tax.

Taxing agencies often perform sales tax audits. Would you be prepared if you were the subject of one? We can show you how QuickBooks can help.

Creating Statement Charges in QuickBooks

Do You Need to Bundle Products in QuickBooks? Create Assemblies

If you frequently sell multiple inventory items grouped together, you need to learn about QuickBooks’ assemblies.

Let’s say you run a home improvement retail outlet, and one of the things you sell is doors. You might sell their parts individually—door frames, hinges, doorknobs, etc.—in case a customer needs to replace a piece. You may also want to sell all of the individual components as a kit and give your buyer a price break for purchasing them all together.

QuickBooks calls these assemblies; sometimes they’re also referred to as kits. Just as you’d create an individual inventory part, you can group related parts together and create an item that you would sell as a package.

A couple of caveats here. You can only build assemblies in QuickBooks Premier and above. If you need this feature and are using QuickBooks Pro, talk to us about upgrading. Second, we know that not all of you are using the latest versions of the software. We’ll use QuickBooks Premier 2018 in the examples here.

Under the Hood

Before you can start working with assemblies, check your QuickBooks settings to make sure they’re correct. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences, then Items & Inventory | Company Preferences. Click in the box in front of Inventory and purchase orders are active if it’s not already checked. If you want QuickBooks to deduct the quantity of items that have already been entered on sales orders, check that box (we recommend this, so you’re not selling items that have already been promised). Then make sure the button in front of When the quantity I want to sell exceeds Quantity Available is filled in, for the same reason.

Before you start building assemblies, you’ll need to make sure your Company Preferences are marked accordingly.

Creating an Assembly Item

Open the Lists menu and select Item List. Open the drop-down list under Item in the lower left corner and click New. In the window that opens, click the down arrow under Type and select Inventory Assembly. Enter an Item Name/Number in the corresponding field in the window that opens. Don’t check the Subitem of or the I purchase this assembly item from a vendor boxes, and ignore Unit Of Measure.

Again, depending on the version of QuickBooks you’re using, you may see different fields in the Inventory Information box at the bottom of this window. But there are some standard elements you should find in this window no matter the version. They include:

  • How much does it cost you to purchase all of the parts for one assembly?
  • Sales Price. What will you charge your customers per kit?
  • COGS Account. “COGS” stands for Cost of Goods Sold. What account in the Chart of Accounts will you use to track the cost of producing your assemblies? Usually, the default one in QuickBooks is fine.
  • Income Account. Which account tracks your sales of this assembly?
  • Bill of Materials (BOM). This appears as a table in QuickBooks; it’s a list of all the individual inventory parts that make up the kit, along with their Cost (to you), QTY (quantity required for each assembly), and the total BOM Cost.

Your Bill of Materials Cost is the total of all inventory items required to create an assembly.

The Inventory Information box at the bottom of this window might contain fields for information like the Asset Account, quantity On Hand, and the number of items on purchase orders and sales orders. Once your inventory assembly is saved, it will reduce inventory levels, and will appear in your Item List.

When you need to create more kits, you’ll open the Vendors menu and select Inventory Activities, then Build Assemblies. You’ll select the Assembly Item from the drop-down list in the upper left corner, which will open a list of the components needed and their quantity on hand. You’d enter the number of kits you want (the maximum possible appears below the table) and then click one of the Build buttons. The next time you look at the kit in your Item List, you’ll see that its quantity has increased.

The concept of assemblies is easy to understand, but if you haven’t worked with accounts and inventory much, you may find creating kits in QuickBooks to be a bit of a challenge. Inventory levels can be a real problem if they get out of whack, and accounts must be assigned correctly to avoid inaccuracies in reports and taxes. We’d be happy to work with you as you get started with this task.

The tale of a scary nine-page background check

I wasn’t too long out of college and at my first “real job” (no background check required) when I stumbled into my very first fraud. I’d been assigned to do some job costing reports because my boss could not find out why the company was losing so much money on a job. After some digging, I found checks that should have been destroyed (and were voided in the accounting system) but had been cashed at the bank. Turns out there was fraud in the accounting department. Not only were “voided” checks being cashed but the payroll person was issuing two checks per payroll for herself and her accounting buddy (including the double 401K contributions for the company AND double vacation hours). The employee had been there for more than eight years – and had been committing fraud for seven and a half of them.

I can remember sitting in the hot warehouse of the company, in the summer, on a box, looking through bankers boxes of check stubs when I found the duplicate stubs. My disbelief that someone would actually do that. And my fear about who I was going to have to tell and how bad the ramifications would be for me. These were senior people. And I had all the proof in my hands, but still, I knew it would be bad, and to be honest, when it all came down, it was. I think since that day I have had a nose for fraud. That whole experience changed how I looked at a lot of things. It honed my detail skills. It made me more suspicious of people who were “too nice.” These women I’d worked side by side with for four years were not what they appeared to be. They weren’t my friends, they were thieves.

Since that day I seem to have walked into a number of cases of fraud, at other companies and with clients in my business. I’ve counseled my clients when they’ve had an employee rob them blind. Fake checks, fake vendors, missing deposits – nothing takes the anguish away when they realize someone they trusted has stolen from them.

It has also me hyper-vigilant about The Wren Group, Inc. and how to keep us as safe as possible from fraud and theft. I have been studying to be a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). And, one of the things I’ve learned is how important a background check and a reference check is in the hiring process.

One of the very best ways to prevent fraud in the workplace is to have a sound hiring process including reference checks and most importantly, background checks.

The thought here is that rarely do people all of a sudden start stealing. There have been issues as past employers and potentially even with law enforcement. And for what a background check tells you (and potentially saves you), they’re really inexpensive, between $17 and $50 depending on the number of states and what you’re checking.

Before you run a background check on a potential employee, you have to have a policy that tells the potential candidate what you will do with the information, especially if it’s negative. Definitely, check with an attorney or your background check company for the right language. Basically, my policy says that I will give the potential candidate the opportunity to explain any incidents found and that if what is found influences the hiring decision, they will be informed of what the information was and why.

A couple of years ago I was hiring for a bookkeeper in my office and found a delightful candidate that checked all the boxes for the position. Great at QuickBooks. Strong Accounting knowledge. Bright. A college graduate. Super personality. Lots of volunteer work. Sounded too good to be true, and I offered her a position contingent on a background check. It’s the first (and only) time I’ve offered a position before I got the results back but I felt so good about this person that I just knew the background check was a formality.

Ha. Nine scary pages of check fraud (about 30 offenses). Two incidents of forgery. Theft by taking. I was aghast. How could my people-meter have been so off? This was a delightful person, a great background, the perfect candidate. And a thief, forger, and potential company-ending hire. I dutifully sent the required e-mail asking for clarification and explanation and I never heard back from the candidate. I’m pretty sure she’s probably working in an accounting office somewhere and I hope to God she’s not skimming, stealing, or forging there because they didn’t do their due diligence.

Another candidate had a clear background check, but the reference check was a little off. The litigious society we live in has made former employers reticent to give feedback freely. Nobody wants to be honest lest they prevent someone from getting a job and are sued for their honesty. This means that as the potential employer, you have to ask a few questions and listen for the long pauses. Not sure what to ask? Click here. There have been a couple of times when I’ve said to the reference, “I know that you are reluctant to be honest, but I hear something in your voice that worries me. I have a business too. What aren’t you telling me? This is a confidential phone call.” And that has usually worked. Ask tough questions, expect straight answers.

There’s been a couple of times recently where a client has told me they’re hiring and asked me if I’d do a background check — or worse — they tell me they don’t want to do them. There seems to be a stigma that if an employer does a background check, they don’t trust their employees. But it’s not about trust; it’s about taking care of the business you built and maintain every day. It’s about protecting your income, your business, your clients, and employees.

For information on finding a background check company, you can check the web or contact your attorney. We’re happy to share the local company that we use (and have been extremely happy with), just give us a call at our office.

Create complex passwords you know & hackers won’t

I don’t know about you but it’s gotten to the point that I wonder how in the world someone else can hack my password when I have trouble remembering it myself.

When a scare like the Heartbleed Bug happens websites respond by increasing password complexity requirements, making it even more difficult to remember which password goes where – and which one is the one that has the capital letter, and the special character, or the set of numbers. How many of you have paper notes in your desks, wallets, notebooks, wherever, to keep your passwords “safe”?

PC Magazine recently published a list of the worst passwords of 2013. You can read the full article here but here’s the short list:

123456, password, 12345678, qwerty, abc123, adobe123, 111111, 1234567

Anything look familiar? The list was skewed a little bit because of the Adobe breach (and those who used adobe123 as their password) but the simplicity of the passwords above make them easy to steal. The reason that people use simple passwords is pretty obvious – because they’re easy to remember, and I think all of us realize we should be using more complex passwords. At the end of the day, we’re still left with the same problem: How to remember multiple passwords across multiple platforms without having to resort to writing them all down.

So about six months ago, I tried to figure out what might be a better solution for me to create complex passwords. I didn’t want to use the same password at each site, because if one is compromised, they all are compromised. How could I devise a method to meet all the weird complexity requirements, make it something not easily guessed, but would work across all platforms, yet STILL be unique at each website? Here’s what I’ve come up with, and honestly it works pretty well.

First what you need is a number, two, three or four digits, that means something to you but wouldn’t be trackable back to you. It shouldn’t be your address, birthday, or zip code – nothing current, and really nothing in your past since in this digital age almost every address you’ve ever lived at as an adult is searchable online. Some ideas are your grandparent’s street address, your basketball jersey number, your PO box in college, the last four of your phone number when you were in grade school or even the model year of your first car. For this blog, I am going to use the example of a football jersey number, 54.

Then you need to decide what characters you’ll replace in your new passwords. If I’d headlined this post with H0w 3@$y i$ 1t t0 gue$$ y0ur p@$$w0rd? would you have known what I meant? H0w 3@$y i$ 1t t0 gue$$ y0ur p@$$w0rd? means How easy is it to guess your password?

Here’s how that works:

  • a=@ The “at” sign on your keyboard, above the number 2.
  • i=! The letter i, regardless of capitalization is an exclamation mark above the number 1.
  • o=0 The letter o is a zero
  • e=3 The letter e is a number 3
  • s=$ The letter s is a dollar sign

Now you need to figure out how you want to create your passwords using the web address for the website. I usually use what’s between the www and the .com or .net as long as it’s not too long. For I use facebook. – wells. – merrill.

Once you’ve decided how you’re going to abbreviate your website, you’re ready to start putting the passwords together. You need the number you chose, the character replacement, and the website abbreviation.

Here’s how it works using this system and adding the number I chose, 54, listed above. I added the number to the end, but you can add to the beginning if you want.

  • My password becomes F@ceb00k54
  • becomes W3ll$54
  • becomes M3rrill54

Here’s why this works so well: The passwords have complexity requirements – a capital letter, a number, and a special character. The passwords are unique at each site – so if your Facebook password gets compromised, no data bot is going to figure out your Wells Fargo password. Best of all, once you come up with your own personal naming convention, you never have to write anything down. It’s in your head and you can pretty much remember every password you need to remember because it’s all right in front of you.

This may seem a little “techie” at first, but I promise you once you figure out the basics, you’ll have it down pat. Print out the character replacements if you need to – no one is going to know what they’re for, and give it a try. Would love your feedback – is it working for you?