Summary list of signs showing if a company is legitimate or not
A sad fact is that working online from home you would come across scams. This post will show you how to tell legit from bogus companies.
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Christine Durst, cofounder of RatRaceRebellion.com
and consultant to the FBI on internet scam issues said, “There is currently a 61-to-1 scam ratio among work-at-home job leads on the internet.”
That is, for every legitimate company, there are 61 scams! Discouraging, isn’t it?
So it pays to be vigilant at all times when purchasing products or services from companies using your personal details.
You should do as much research as you can about the trader and their business.
This piece is to help you do so.
Fortunately, the following 8 indications are very powerful in throwing up red flags. Use some or all of them to protect yourself from falling victim to a SCAM.
1. Check the Company’s Registration Status
One of the ways to find out if a company is legitimate is to check its status through:
a) Federal Employer Identification Number: (Company based in USA), check listing with the Secretary of State and/or for a Federal Employer Identification Number.
b) Companies House is UK’s registrar of companies with which all companies are incorporated and registered.
c) Australia Business Number: All companies incorporated in Australia are registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
Free to search several registers, such as the Organisations and Business Names register.
For all other countries, Google for their national company registration processes.
e) Membership of Associations: Many industries are represented by professional or trade associations.
f) Membership of Regulatory bodies: Research the industry of the company you are going to deal with to see if they comply with regulations.
g) Permits, Certifications or Licences: Since they also encourage consumer confidence.
h) ISO status: For the authenticity of the logo of a certified organisation.
Search for Certification Bodies by visiting the UKAS website who are appointed by government to oversee Certification Bodies in the UK.
Sometimes, the logo will also have a PIN or certification number underneath to help further.
i) Check the buyer’s guide created by the ISO for you to verify whether an organisation is legitimate or not.
j) Government departments and agencies responsible for business and consumer affairs: Check up these in person, by telephone or online.
k) Authority Websites: They contain database of registered companies. Here are some of them:
For US/Canada – The Better Business Bureau.
N.B.: Registration with the BBB is not a guarantee of a company’s seriousness. And lack of a listing does not necessarily mean the company is a scam. Your best bet is to consult reviews.
You can Get information about a company for free, including:
- company information, e.g. registered address and date of incorporation
- current and resigned officers
- document images
- mortgage charge data
- previous company names
- insolvency information
- l) For Australia – Verify A. B. N. (Australian Business Number) of Australian Companies here. Index: Check legally withholding sales tax of 46.5% if the company registered in Australia has no Australian Tax Office compliant Tax invoice.
Check the following websites for information about a trader registered in Australia:
- Choice Magazine
- Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC)
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
Click here for warnings about businesses and traders to avoid issued in extreme cases about Australian businesses you should not deal with.
m) For India
– Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) also protects investors and offers many important services to stakeholders.
For all other countries, Google to find out the authority website.
2. Check the Company’s Contact Details
Landline number: Check the website or the headed paper of the company, or consult the telephone directory for a phone number, preferably a landline one. Then call this number.
Physical address: Check for a company’s physical address on its website, in the telephone directory or on its headed paper. Write to this address to see if you would receive a reply.
Street addresses are preferred to P. O. Boxes, but in some parts of the world (Africa especially) letters are distributed through P. O. Boxes and not street addresses.
3. Check the Company’s Website
Another way to tell if a company is legit is to take a look at its website.
For registration details: Look up the website’s registration details on the IICAN site using their who.is command into which you will type the company’s website URL.
This will display geographic location, website’s registration and expiration date, name, email, address, contact number about the person who registered the website.
For new or about to expire domain: By completing a simple ‘WHOIS’ domain check, you can also tell if a website has been recently registered. The UK’s domain registrar Nominet has a WHOIS lookup service on its website.
For discrepancies and lack of professionalism: Go through the website for the company’s ideas and goals. If they say one thing at a place and contradict it at another, then they may be a scam.
If you notice poor English used repeatedly on a website, that may be someone out to cheat.
If the company you are going to deal with says it is in the UK, match up their website’s company name and registered address with the records on Companies House’s free Web Check service.
Stock photos and lack of photos of a company’s building, employees, or products are a major tip-off.
For refund and exchange policy: Check the company’s refund and exchange policy.
For same business page for another city: Use your same search term with a name different from the city name the company displays. If you find the same business page for another city, back out.
For the configuration of the payment gateway: Before entering your payment details, check for https:// at the beginning of the URL and make sure that a padlock or key symbol is displaying on your browser.
Avoid paying online companies you don’t know well with your bank account details. Better pay with your credit card (and make sure to pay it off at your next statement date). Best, use Paypal which can get you a refund if things go wrong.
4. Check the Company’s Payment Methods
So if you’re wondering “how do i know if an online company is legitimate” before giving it your money, check their payment methods.
Consider how the company accepts payments: If they only accept payments through insecure or shady means, that could be a red flag. Secure modes such as PayPal, Maestro Card, Moneybookers, Neteller, SolidTrustPay etc. are considered the safest methods of payment in online transactions.
5. Seek Feedback about the Company
Another way to find out if an online company is legitimate is what others say about it.
Check in the search engines: Some reviews, or information, may turn up. If you don’t see anything worth checking, try combinations like “Is company X scam,” “Is company X legitimate,” “Is company X genuine”.
There may also be search results on forums where someone speaks of their bad experience with the company or warns against dealing with them.
You may also copy the acceptance email sent you and paste it into a search engine window. If the company is fraudulent, there no doubt will be returns with complaints and warnings from people who have been scammed by it.
Ask your network: if they’ll recommend it or not.
Seek a referral: You could also contact an industry body or association for a referral.
Check testimonials: Check to see if the website lists any from satisfied clients or customers.
Check in the community: Ask for real bricks and mortar references in their area.
Check customer reviews on review platforms: Review platforms carry the opinions of various customers and usually provide an unfiltered view on a company’s overall reliability.
Verify endorsements: Check from the sources lists of standards companies display that they have achieved or awards they have received.
Check credit reports: For details about the company’s credit score, financial performance, director structure, contact details, how long they have been trading, etc.
6. Visit the Company’s Office
If time and distance permit, don’t hesitate to approach the company in person. Profit to check original copies of their certificates, awards, company registration, etc.
7. Trust your Sixth Sense
After having done several checks, if you are still undecided about working with a company, the best piece of advice is to simply go with your gut feeling about the company.
8. More Pieces of Advice
- When you look up reviews, be smart about whose reviews you trust.
- If you’re looking at a business that is run from home, or if it’s a really small company, they may not have business listings or long-lasting domains, for lack of funds.
- Some hosts keep the information of the domain owner private. This does not necessarily mean it is a scam.
- If you’re unable to find sufficient information on a company, don’t be afraid to ask around. (business rating sites or related and post on their forums about the company)
- If they have a phone number, call.
- Try and stick with popular, proven on-line businesses.
- Does the merchant have a brick-and-mortar store? Then, it is more likely to be legit. If possible, visit the store once.
- Be careful with your information. Don’t provide any more than is necessary, and use good judgment when giving it out.
- If it sounds too good to be true, assume that it is.
- Some tools may not be available for things outside of America.
- People have been scammed out of millions. Be careful.
- Remember to research any company before you invest money or purchase goods from them.
- Watch out for instant money schemes, as the majority of these tend to be scams, or schemes where only a few of the participants actually get rich.
- Only deal with people in your area.
The best way to avoid scammers is to deal locally, with people you can meet in person.
- Don’t wire funds (Western Union, Money Gram, etc.).
If you’re asked to wire funds, you’re talking to a scammer.
- Beware of fake cashier’s checks and money orders.
Scammers will often send you a fake cashier’s check valued above your asking price. The scammer will then ask you to wire the over-payment back to them.
- Beware of identity theft. Don’t share your private info.
Don’t give out bank account numbers, passwords, mother’s maiden name, date of birth, place of birth, credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc.
- Use caution when accepting relay calls from the hearing and speech impaired.
Relay calls are a legitimate service for people with hearing and speech disabilities. However, scammers often use this service to contact you, pretending to be deaf.
- Avoid shipping and escrow.
Scammers commonly employ fake, online escrow services.
- Avoid deals that are too good to be true.
Scammers try often to post fake ads, selling items that are significantly underpriced.
N.B.: This information is from accc.gov
Not all traders are genuine
Authorisation to operate does not guarantee honesty.
Business cards, registration numbers or other forms of identification do not necessarily prove that a business or trader is legitimate.
If you are in any doubt about the credentials of a business or trader, do some research.
Are there any signs of scam that I didn’t mention here? Just scroll down and let us know. Thanks.
Your personal guide to securing your future online
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