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Identity Theft — ?

Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

It’s not just your personal identity that thieves will steal

“Identity theft” is in the news a lot. Thieves steal our “online selves,” taking our Social Security numbers, our home addresses and phone numbers and other personal information (gleaned from Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. or gifted by one of the many data breaches we hear about years after the fact…).

They also intercept your credit card number or other information when you use public WiFi or by using skimmers at gas pumps and the like. They set up fake accounts in your name or simply go on spending sprees, using your credit cards or your cash straight from your bank.

This damaging phenomenon takes time, money and effort to reclaim stolen monies and property, in addition to re-establishing your identity. A recent poll says 16 million Americans per year experience identity theft, and over 60 million have experienced some sort of identity theft in the past 5 years.

Personal experience

I’ve experienced it myself a couple of times. In the most recent incident, someone shopped for large, expensive items online at midnight. I’m not sure which was more concerning, the fact that someone was trying to use my bank card or what the bank rep said to me when he called to report it.

“It was easy to spot,” he said. “We know you’re not even awake at midnight!”

Scary that my bank knows me that well!

The bank immediately rejected the charge, of course, but I had to go through the steps of validating the rejection, destroying my old card and getting a new one (which took a week).

I lost time, money (because time is money!), and the illusion of security. It took at least 4 phone calls and 3–4 hours, total, to try to figure out what happened, repair the damage and replace what was lost.

I had to set new PIN numbers, change old records to the new number, and memorize (especially tough at my age!) a new purchasing code. It was annoying, to say the least.

Plus, I felt insecure. My security had been invaded or hacked. At the very least, I lost the illusion of privacy. (An illusion is all we really have in today’s internet age, but having that illusion shattered is difficult to take.)

It’s nice to believe we’re safe out there, but we’re not. It’s time to admit that while the internet is certainly handy, it has opened up a whole new world of possibilities — both good and bad.

What about your business identity?

It got me thinking about identity theft of a business.

Have you notice the “lack of originality” in naming and branding companies? I have. I’ve met with CEOs who have an actual reticence to come up with logos, colors, and a “brand identity.”

Many startups seem to think these items aren’t necessary, that any name will do and, in the interest of time, it’s “go-go-go!” without a thought to establishing your brand. The lack of originality and uniqueness leaves the business open to “identity theft” by companies with similar names, similar “simple word art” logos that look identical, and with matched color schemes.

Recently, I went to the internet to look for a certain company that made men’s belts after I heard the company’s name on a radio show. When performing an initial search, I ended up with a different company with a “close-sounding” name and similar products. When I did a further search, I noticed that the different company used the same colors and a similar logo to the company I had sought intentionally.

Was this on purpose? Was it accidental? I’m not sure, but I know as a consumer it was easy to confuse one with another, which is exactly what you DON’T want as a vendor.

It doesn’t take a fortune — or months of time — to build up a brand, but it only takes a second to destroy it.

Incubator managers, encourage your client companies to invest in a real, identifiable logo; a solid name for their venture; and a byline, motto, or whatever it takes to make it “original and unique.”

The lack of effort in establishing a brand identity will be costly eventually, somewhere down the line. Companies have no reason NOT to develop a brand identity; they might have excuses, but they have no true reason to avoid it.

Hiring an outside agency to come up with a name, an acronym, a byline and a logo may look expensive, but the cost of a lost opportunity is more pricey. Again, the cost of setting up a reasonable website (and having a unique identity so the site is easy to find) is worthwhile compared to having customers who won’t be buying your services/products because they cannot locate you to purchase!

If you don’t think branding has value, consider these facts. Did you know the original name proposed for “Google” was “Backrub”? Did you hear that “Yahoo” was originally “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web”? Having a clear, distinct, memorable name is worth far more than you will pay for it up front, and being easily identifiable in your market gives you a solid advantage over the competition.

If you take nothing from this post but this, take this: Work with your companies to understand the value (from the start!) of a unique brand. Encourage them to spend time — and money — on logos, trademarks and bylines.

Be honest with your clients when presented with a, well, questionable name, brand or logo. It’s far better to tell them now than to let their customers tell them later!

Be encouraging, be honest, be fair, but be determined to make the right choices and help your clients make their own right choices. Create an identity and protect it.

An identity is a terrible thing to waste, both your personal identity and your business. Take care with them both.

Mark Long has long experienced the intricacies of business incubation, acceleration, coworking spaces, makerspaces and other entrepreneurial assistance venues around the world. He shares his experience, outlook, background knowledge, studies, and observations in regular posts at the IncubatorBlogger. Feel free to follow him there — or follow him and UF Innovate right here.

University of Florida Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the laboratory to the market, fostering a resilient economy and making the world a better place. Based at one of the nation’s leading research institutions, UF Innovate comprises four organizations: Tech Licensing, Ventures and two business incubators, Sid Martin Biotech and The Hub. Within the UF Office of Research, the three organizations form a comprehensive system to take technologies from the lab to the public, bringing together the five critical elements in the “innovation ecosystem”: facilities, capital, management talent, intellectual property and technology-transfer expertise.

Originally published at http://incubatorblogger.wordpress.com on January 28, 2020.

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Tech Licensing, Ventures, Pathways, and Accelerate, which includes two business incubators, The Hub and Sid Martin Biotech. We build business on innovation.