When starting a new business you are often looking for the best ways to cut costs. A common method of doing this is by listing your home address as your business address. However, there are good reasons why this is inadvisable and unsafe.
There are instances when listing your home address is a valid choice, however, for most businesses using your home address can make you seem unreliable and unprofessional to customers. In a worst-case scenario, it can even lead to privacy breaches.
The good news is there are options to work around this issue. So what is at risk, and how can you protect yourself and your business?
What is Privacy Protection?
An often overlooked and underestimated aspect of starting a new business is how important it is to separate home life and work life.
When you list your personal home address as your business address, you mingle these two worlds. This can lead to confusion and possible invasion of privacy. If customers appear at your front door, it’s possible that the privacy of your home and family can be compromised.
The definition of privacy protection can vary, however it generally refers to keeping your information safe from those you do not want to see it, i.e. hackers, public websites, or government entities.
Keeping Information and Identity Safe From Unwanted Groups and The Public
To protect your information and keep your identity safe from unwanted parties, it’s important to first understand what information is actually available for all to see.
The U.S. General Service Administration defines PII as, “Information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, either alone or when combined with other personal or identifying information that is linked or linkable to a specific individual”.
This can include the following ways for that stranger on the dark web to compromise your whole life:
- Names: Your full name, your maiden name, and your mother’s maiden name.
- Personal ID numbers: Your social security number, driver’s license number, passport number, patient ID number, taxpayer ID number, credit account number, or financial account number.
- Addresses: Your street address and email address.
- Biometrics: Retina scans, fingerprints, facial geometry, or voice signatures.
- Vehicle ID or title numbers.
- Phone numbers both landlines and mobile numbers.
- Technology asset information: Media Access Control (MAC) or Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that are tied to a certain individual.
Yikes, that’s a lot of attainable information that you give out all the time! For instance, you make a bulk purchase to buy office supplies for your business and used your home address for the checkout and shipping forms. You use your address more often than you think and that’s why it’s important to protect it. You’re identity could be compromised with a simple office supply purchase.
And as a business you’ll have to expose one of the above listed one way or another. Imagine if your SSN got in the wrong hands that would be disastrous for you and your company.
There are simple practices you can adopt to keep it safe. For example, don’t give out information on phone calls or through the mail unless you know the person. Don’t click links in emails when they require you to input information.
It’s also important to note that the information associated with your LLC or corporation is already available to the public online, via your state’s Secretary of State website. This is why it is important not to associate your home address with your business address, because if one is compromised, so is the other.
Real-life examples of the bad consequences of this overlap in personal and professional addresses are:
- Angry customers finding your home address to threaten you.
- Having a bad relationship with a business partner who commits fraud (because you used your home address and gave them full financial access to the business).
- When you own property and have disgruntled tenants who are violent when overdue rental payments and evictions come around.
All these examples are bad and scary experiences we hope to help you avoid so here’s how to.
5 Steps to Protect Your Home Address
When doing business it is normal to give out your address to interested parties, customers, vendors, etc. Registering your business with your home address, means you will be giving out your home address a countless time and who knows in whose hands your address could end up?
It can be difficult to fully protect your home address if you’ve already been using it, but it’s never too late to start taking steps to protect your privacy and personal information. Here are 5 basic steps you can start with.
1. Obtain Another Business Address to Receive Your Mail and Packages
There are many options available to set up another address as your business address. Here are some of the most commonly used business addresses.
A dedicated PO Box can be purchased from local post offices. They are lockable mailboxes which can be used as a separate delivery address. You can then personally collect your mail from them. They are always located in physical post offices and accessible only by a unique code. Make sure you choose a mailbox capacity appropriate for the volume and size mail you receive.
The address of your PO Box will be presented in this format:
PO Box 1234
Los Angeles, CA 90053
For a guide on how to get your own PO Box, follow the 3 Easy Steps on How To Get a PO Box
Getting a PO Box is an affordable business address to use, but keep in mind you’ll have to travel often to make sure it doesn’t overflow and that you don’t miss any important business documents.
However, note that if you are an LLC or corporation or want to obtain a business bank account a PO Box is not the right choice because it isn’t an accepted address. You can read more about the disadvantages here.
A virtual mailbox service offers a permanent business street address for receiving mail. Once mail is received, the mail is scanned and an image of the mail envelope is uploaded into your digital mailbox. You can then view and request to have selected mail pieces opened and the contents scanned. You can read more with The Ultimate Guide to a Virtual Mailbox
The main benefits of using a virtual mailbox are:
- Manage your mail remotely.
- Centralize all of your mail.
- Maintain a permanent address even when your business moves.
- Real-time mail notifications.
- Online viewing of mail.
- Mail opening and scanning.
- Mail forwarding.
- Package forwarding.
- Mail shredding, mail disposal, or mail recycling.
- Package storage and shipping.
- Check depositing.
A virtual mailbox is a flexible business address option if you are a run a remote business or travel often. It lets you conveniently manage your mail and packages from any location and while on the go.
Using a virtual office is another solution to protecting your privacy.
Virtual offices offer many of the benefits and features of traditional office spaces, without the overheads and cost of leasing one. They are also a great way of protecting your personal information and keeping your personal and business lives separate.
Some of the benefits of using a virtual office can include:
- Mail receipt and forwarding.
- Live receptionist.
- Directory listings.
- Virtual office spaces.
- Virtual conference rooms.
The ability to use a mail receipt service with virtual offices means you don’t have to provide your personal address for business purposes, thus protecting the privacy of your home and family.
2. Use Your Separate Business Address
It is important to not use your home address for any of your official business documents. Make sure you use your selected separate business address at all times.
Often, you must provide an address of some kind for records, business transactions, and a huge range of activities relating to your work. Addresses that are listed as relating to businesses or LLCs are available for the public to see online, leaving you open to everything from junk mail to scammers.
So ensure that whatever address you choose, whether it’s a virtual office or virtual mailbox, is the address you associate with your business and not your home address. Are we emphasizing this enough?
3. Remove Your Home Address From Any Company Filings
Make sure you don’t use your home address on any state documents when completing business-related forms.
It’s important to remember that if you use your home address for business use, it will become public information. Even using it once will list it on public state websites. That exposure opens you up to receiving vast amounts of unwanted business-related mail (junk mail) or even worse, visits or physical contact from disgruntled customers.
It may be easier and less expensive in the short term to use your home address for your business, but using a separate business address at the beginning will save you time, money, and ultimately make you and your business look more professional as well as the most important part protecting your privacy for the long run.
4. Don’t Act As Your Registered Agent Sharing Your Home Address
This might seem a little out of place, but it isn’t. As an LLC or corporation you are required to assign a registered agent in order to operate. There are a couple of options to choose from for assigning a registered agent to your business and the one we’ll address is if you choose to act as your own registered agent.
You can choose to act as your own registered agent, however finding another to act for you can add another layer of separation between your personal and business lives. If you act as your own registered agent you will be using your home address, which is public information, so use a registered agent service to continue on the path of protecting your privacy.
A registered agent service is someone in another address, either a business or an individual, who is authorized to receive your mail, including legal documents on your behalf. No need to ever expose your personal home address. Voila!
The main benefits of finding a registered agent service are:
- Increased privacy.
- Access to served documents on the same day.
- Helps comply with business guidelines and rules.
5. Opening a Business Bank Account
Again this might seem a little off topic to protecting your home address with your business, but if you haven’t found out yet *SPOILER ALERT* a business bank account is one of the most important parts of your business.
It is needed to separate your personal and business finances for tax purposes. It’s best to get this in the beginning stages to set your business up for success.
Now let’s tie it back to protecting your privacy.
Some banks and financial services will accept a residential address, but it’s not a good idea. The point of protecting your privacy is to use your home address minimally or not at all. This means that your options to avoid using your personal information become limited when opening a business bank account. Another option is a commercial office, but that’s costly.
There is one more option for proof of address for opening a business bank account that you can view called Trulease. While it may be a little expensive, it can effectively safeguard your privacy.
The Best Solution to Protect the Privacy of Your Home Address
Keeping your home address separate from your business or work is vitally important, protecting you from minor inconveniences such as junk mail to more serious breaches such as stalking and identity theft. Luckily, there are plenty of options available to help you maintain your privacy while benefiting from everything a physical business address offers.
- Virtual mailboxes offer a mail receiving service that also allows you to file every type of mail all in one place.
- PO Boxes offer a simple solution for receiving mail and packages, with the security offered by the post office.
- Virtual offices provide the whole suite of features offered by physical office spaces, but without the overheads involved with renting one out.
Combined with the steps outlined above for protecting privacy, choosing one of these options will help ensure that your business will run successfully, without sacrificing the privacy of your own information.