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How to Check if a Company Is Genuine

Jun 11, 2017 09:37AM

Scams are an unfortunate aspect of the world we live in. Though it is now easy to make purchases with one click of a mouse, there is also an increased risk that your personal information can be exploited by unscrupulous businesses. A company may seem genuine, but in reality it could turn out to be a scam. Luckily, there are a few things that can throw up a red flag, and help prevent you from providing sensitive, personal information to undeserving scam artists

Reviewing a Business's Website to Determine Legitimacy

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    Check the company’s website for a legitimate telephone number and address. If there is no way to contact this company offline, this may be a red flag that the business is not legitimate. Since emails and domain names are easy to obtain, having an email address is not as trustworthy as offline contact information.
    • Remember that both phone numbers and addresses are now super easy to fake. There is a whole industry in providing fake area code and 800 numbers. Even Google now does this, so phone numbers are no longer a sign of a real company. Before doing business, call the local chamber of commerce associated with the address and see if they are a real bricks and mortar company, or simply a referral skimming internet company with a phony address.
    • Search in other cities to see if a supposedly "local business" is using the same website for operations in other localities. You should be wary if you find the same supposedly local business page being used for another location. Usually these copied phony business web pages are used in many cities and are just copied templates. Many have broken hyperlinks for images and links, which is a tip-off that this may be a phony phishing business page.
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    Browse the company's website for discrepancies and indicators of professionalism. If a website says one thing in one spot, and then contradicts itself in another spot, that's a red flag that the business is not coordinated and may be a scam that was hastily thrown together. If the website is unprofessional (for example, there are stolen images and numerous spelling errors), this shows that little thought or care was put into creating the website, which could indicate a "get rich quick" scam.
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    Review the website’s policy pages. Legitimate companies will almost always have terms of use or terms and conditions pages, as well as privacy policy pages. If they do have terms and privacy policies, read through them carefully suspicious sounding language.
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    Look for decent content. Phony referral business sites usually don't have much content on their sites and usually have lots of legitimate company and BBB logos on their site to trick you into trusting them. A 'big' tip-off are stock photos or no photos of the company building, employees, or products. Avoid the company if all you see are stock photos of their so-called product, which is one of the easiest way to spot a fake web business!
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    Consider how the company accepts payments. It’s a red flag when a company’s website says they only accept payments through insecure or shady methods, such as only by paper check or cash. This is because PayPal and other secondary electronic payment providers are often considered the safest method for paying online businesses. Look into payment methods which will allow you to get your money back if things go sour and do not require the release of unnecessary personal information.

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