Becoming an entrepreneur can be a risky venture. It's often difficult to know who to trust. Even when you think you've done plenty of background research before entering into a business relationship with another company, you can still fall prey. Today's scammers know exactly what they're doing. And they do it so smoothly that intelligent, careful entrepreneurs are still becoming victims of their clever ploys.
To help you avoid becoming the next scam victim, check out our list of online resources. Whether you're looking for VC funding or thinking of getting involved in a potential business venture, these 10 websites will help you distinguish between a scam and a legitimate business opportunity.
- Federal Trade Commission--The FTC website is a great place to start. You can use this website to check up on a company's current licensing status.
- You can also check your state attorney general's website for the latest fraud alerts and tips on detecting scams. Contact the office directly for any information they have on a specific company. Click here for an index of attorney general sites by state.
- Better Business Bureau--With a simple search, you can find any public complaints filed against the company in question.
- The Ripoff Report--People use this site to share personal stories about companies they believe took advantage of them. You can add your own experiences and learn from others.
- Scambusters.org--This site specializes in internet scams and identity theft. Type in a single word or a combination of words common to the scam you're researching. But keep in mind that Scambusters.org doesn't list scams by company names since they change so frequently.
- Fraud.org--This is home of the National Consumers League's National Fraud Information Center and Internet Fraud Watch programs. Learn about the top 10 telemarketing and internet scams and share your fraud experiences on their online fraud center.
- The Anti-Phishing Working Group--The APWG website focuses on wiping out internet fraud and scams. It's also a good place to learn more about phishing and pharming, and keep up with the latest phishing trends.
- IRS Advice on Avoiding Tax Scams--The IRS created this page to help the public recognize and avoid tax schemes. The site lists several common schemes and options for reporting tax scams.
- U.S. Patent and Trademark Office--According to USPTO, invention promotion scams cost U.S. inventors hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Learn more about patenting your invention and how to protect your ideas. This site also has instructions on how to file a complaint.
- Entrepreneur.com also offers plenty of scam-blocking advice, including this article on spotting the tell-tale signs of a scam. For tips on determining if a homebased business opportunity is legitimate, don't miss "Determining if a Biz Opp is a Scam." Lastly, we've compiled a list of business opportunities on the up-and-up in our Biz Opp zone.