4 Scams to Avoid In Your Business

Barbara Weltman

It's hard enough to run your business, let alone identify when you're being targeted by a scammer.

1. Identity theft

The scam: You're promised all kinds of things for your business -- loans, equipment, a buyer for your company. All you have to do is provide your company's financial information, including your bank account. The party contacting you then uses your information to obtain loans, get into your account, or do other financial damage to your company.

Variation: You are contacted by someone who purports to be from the SBA or IRS. The letterhead or email looks genuine, but in fact the contact is made by an identity thief.

What to do: The SBA warns that you should never give your company's financial information to anyone unless you initiate contact for a specific reason, or you thoroughly check the party out and verify their claims.

2. Loan brokers

The scam: A party claiming to be a loan broker asked for an upfront fee (e.g., $3,000) to help you complete the paperwork for obtaining a business loan. As soon as you pay the fee, the party disappears.

What to do: There are some legitimate loan brokers who may be able to help you secure a loan. In March 2010, the SBA warned small businesses to beware of fraudsters promising to get you an SBA loan.

3. Equipment loans or leases

The scam: You receive a communication (by phone, mail, or email) saying you've been pre-approved for an equipment loan or lease. All you have to do is make the first and last month's payment. However, you never see the equipment.

What to do: Before you do business with anyone, check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or your state attorney general's office to learn if there have been any complaints filed.

4. "Business Opportunities"

The scam: You see ads or are solicited to get in on a great business opportunity that claims you can make great money, such as $150,000 a year, even from home. You pay for training materials and/or equipment; the scam is the exaggeration of the money that can be made.

What to do: If something sounds too good to be true, it is probably a scam. To protect yourself, get an earnings claim in writing. Again, check with your attorney general's office and your state or county consumer protection agency, as well as BBB, both where the business opportunity promoter is based and where you live, to find out whether there are any records of unresolved complaints.

Barbara Weltman, author of several books including her most recent, 1001 Deductions & Tax Breaks 2009
Copyright 2010 Author retains ownership. All Rights Reserved.

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