Paging Cindy, If She Exists. (And Why It's Important If She Doesn't.) The Internet has flattened the world, but also is fraught with danger. Luckily, the Web has tools to protect yourself and your business.
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To be honest with you, I don't have a clue who Cindy Sparling is. I don't know anything about her.
All that I know is that one of my clients is interested in doing business with her, and wants my help in getting in touch with her.
Look, she may be an amazing health-care professional, based on what a quick Google search has told me and based on what my client has read. But before we reach out, might it be a good idea to dig a little deeper? Is she licensed by any state board? Does she even exist?
So, what we start with is this page, from a Fibromyalgia research group.
Lots of Google links. Lots of testimonials from satisfied customers. And, if I was interested in buying her supplements, and was buying them with a credit card, I'd probably feel comfortable enough to try them. (After all, Amazon sells her stuff, too!)
But, if this is going to be a business relationship, with lots of money on the line, doesn't it warrant a few seconds of further, advanced searching?
And we click on the little camera icon, and then paste in the image of Cindy:
And then we get…
And then with a little more digging (like adding the word "stock photo" to the search):
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Do you still want to do business with Cindy? Does Cindy even exist? And if she does, does she allow her photo to be used by the stock-photo site (I doubt it) or by the psychic who shares her spitting image? While the possibility certainly exists that Cindy exists and does run the fibromyalgia center that sells supplements, isn't it as least worthy of consideration that, in fact, that it is possily a made-up use of the name?
Entrepreneurs have more tools than ever to research potential business partners. It's amazing what you can uncover with just a bit of advanced sleuthing on Google.
One of my clients was dealing with a factory in China, which "proved" its existence with images of their factory. ("We are not a trading company" they insisted. "Here are pictures of our factory…")
They also had images disabled, so it wasn't even possible to download the image and then "search by image" on google to find out if anything was amiss. So, I took a screenshot of the webpage. (Hit print screen key on your computer, then paste into a Photoshop or Paint document, then crop the image so only the "factory" remains.)
Then, we uploaded that image to Google images…
And came up with more than 50 factories (all pitching all kinds of items, from electronics, clothes to baby pacifiers), all of which were using this same "blue factory building" to show that they were "legitimate!"
Among other tools, like Rapportive in Gmail, Discover.ly, Facebook and other social networks themselves, these new tools are all the more important to vet your potential business partners more than ever.
The Internet has flattened the world, and global trade between the smaller entrepreneur who may not be able to hop around the world just to "check it out," have an ever-growing arsenal of tools at their disposal to enable basic fact checking. But to stay one step ahead of those who are not as honest as they should be, using creative strategies like this one to see if you are dealing with someone real and legitimate, is a wonderful tool that can help you move ahead in business successfully to make it big!
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