Backdooring Deals? You’re a Loser

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backdoor“Backdooring is just for losers,” says Thomas Chillemi, founder and CEO of Harvest Lending, a small business finance brokerage. “Like I think anybody who participates in it is just a loser.”

Backdooring, as colorfully referenced by Chillemi, is a colloquial term used widely across the industry to describe how leads, apps, or entire deals are stolen from brokers. The deal gets submitted through the front door and then leaks out the back door to an unauthorized third party. Chillemi sums it up as such: “backdooring is ‘I secured a lead, I secured a file in some way, shape or form. And that merchant is being contacted through my efforts somehow that I didn’t give permission to.'”

It’s a scenario that’s been top of mind at brokerages across the country for years, and it’s a problem that’s getting worse, according to sources that deBanked has spoken with.

“I would say backdooring is the worst of the worst right now,” says Josh Feinberg, CEO of Everlasting Capital, another small business finance brokerage. “I think as far as rogue employees go at direct funders, it’s the worst it’s ever been.”

Feinberg’s reference to “rogue employees” is just one such way that backdooring can occur. It can be an employee of a lender, management of a lender, an employee of the broker, a broker pretending to be a lender, and possibly in a worst case scenario even a cyber intruder like a hacker. Sometimes it’s a clandestine operation structured in a way to make it difficult for the broker to detect that their client’s file has been intercepted while other times backdooring is such a normalized function of one’s business that accepting a submission from a broker and then shopping it elsewhere to circumvent them is practically firm policy and done on an automated basis.

Some of the more seasoned brokers who are used to being on guard with what a lender intends to do with their file advise that their peers approach any proposed ISO agreement with a fine-tooth comb to establish what is or isn’t allowed. After all, if the agreement grants the lender the contractual right to backdoor the broker, is it really backdooring?

Others say the contract’s language can only carry the relationship so far.

“I only try to board up with people that seem to be good actors, but then you never know what an employee might do, right?” says Chillemi.

dumspter divingWhether it’s a jaded underwriter, a slick admin, or Bob in accounting who never says a peep, it only takes one individual to set eyes on an application to be in a position to transfer the information elsewhere for personal gain. deBanked examined this subject in years past and learned the lengths that rogue employees go through to extract deal data. For example, when one funding company blocked the ability to transfer data outside of the company’s network, an employee took photos of their screen with their phone. When the employer banned cell phones in the office in response, one employee wrote down deal data on scrap paper, threw it in the garbage, and then returned to the office building after hours to try and fish it out of the dumpster.

The absurdity of that visual alone implies there must be big bucks in the backdoor business. Indeed, according to screenshots forwarded to deBanked of what appears to be an underground Whatsapp group, backdoored deals are currently being marketed for sale with bank statements, social security numbers, and all. A single fresh backdoored file can go for $20 – $35 or buyers can purchase them in bulk, up to 600 at a time, for a discounted price.

“Fresh Packs” apparently fetch more because the applicants may not have signed a funding contract with anyone yet and are theoretically more warm to doing a deal even if they’re not quite sure how the company approaching them got all of their information. And it’s this speed and efficiency of the backdooring happening that’s making things extra difficult for brokers. For Chillemi, he says the backdooring in earlier years would reveal itself when someone would try to call his customer a month or two after the fact. “Like even if it happened after two or three days that felt really fast,” he says. “But now, you’re talking hours, like these people have it within hours and I just don’t even know how anybody could really compete with that.”

data securityBrokers, ready for this, developed a tactic that is still used today as a front-line defense mechanism. They replace the applicant’s email address and phone number on the application with ones they control, so that when an attempted backdooring occurs, the caller is unsuspectingly contacting the very broker they are trying to steal the deal from. The result? They’re caught red-handed.

“I got a text from somebody claiming that they worked at Fidelity,” says Chillemi. “They texted me a picture of my own application. They’re so brazen that they’re just texting the merchant… they thought they were texting the merchant.”

Not only was the Fidelity component a deception, but the mistake of texting the broker who was just waiting to catch them is causing the backdoor shops to evolve. New backdoor callers know the application contact info might be booby-trapped so they’re now skip-tracing the applicants on an automated basis and getting their real contact info and using that instead.

For Feinberg at Everlasting, he says the method of substituting out an applicant’s contact info is not something they do, though he’s aware that it’s done by others in the working capital space. He says that it’s not something that would really be tolerated in the equipment finance side of the industry which operates much cleaner with no backdooring, at least in his experience. The lenders there hate it and everyone involved needs to be able to communicate with the customer. It’s just the working capital deals where all these problems happen.

“It’s defeating, and it’s a very very difficult thing to diagnose,” Feinberg says. He adds that the feeling is worse when realizing that it has happened even when submitting to top tier A players. There’s no delay either. He says that the customer can be called literally within the same hour of submitting it, which puts them in an awkward position.

“They lose complete trust in our company,” Feinberg says. “And it makes it very difficult to be able to work with these clients.”

picking up the phoneAccording to Chillemi of Harvest, “Most of the time what happens is the merchant calls us and says, ‘Now I’m getting all these phone calls people saying they’re working with you,’ and it’s just kind of like an embarrassment of where I’ve got to explain to this person that somebody at these companies leaked their information that wasn’t supposed to. And it just makes me look bad, right?”

Another owner of a large broker shop, who did not authorize his name to be used in connection with this story, says that while everyone’s mind immediately goes to the lending companies, the most common source of backdoored deals is actually from rogue employees inside the brokerages themselves. Whether it’s the rep backdooring their own deals to circumvent splitting commissions with their employer or someone else in the chain that has access to the data, his advice was that brokerage owners first need to look extremely inwards before pointing fingers outwards. Investing in proper security is critical, he says.

But assuming that base is covered, Feinberg says that brokers should do a background check on the lenders and interview them like a lender would interview a merchant for funding.

“We absolutely look into the agreements that we sign but a lot of due diligence happens just on the first phone call,” Feinberg says. “Just on the first phone call we can judge whether this is going to be a real lender…”

A key question to ask, he says, is how compensation works. And that’s because an individual lender will have a defined fixed system whereas a backdoor broker pretending to be a lender is subject to the different compensation structures they have at all their different lending relationships and would not be able to guarantee any fixed commission pricing to the broker they are trying to trick into submitting, that is if they are intending to pay them out a percentage of the deals they backdoor them on in the first place.

“Trust is the number one thing with us,” Feinberg says. “And if trust gets broken, then it’s over. So we really try to work with people that we know personally. And the way that we’ve met people personally is through trade shows, specifically deBanked events.”

Chillemi argues that someone who tries to make their living off of backdoored deals are not salespeople at all, but as he reiterates, losers.

“[the backdoor broker] knows he’s a liar,” says Chillemi, “He’s calling these people saying he’s an underwriter… he’s not strong, he’s not learning. They don’t know what they’re doing. They’re putting the lenders at risk.”

Last modified: April 25, 2024
Sean Murray

Category: Business Lending, merchant cash advance

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