Watch out for these business scams

BBB Consumer Alerts
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Whether you are looking for a new business opportunity, ways to improve business performance, or ways to simply reduce taxes, beware of these small business scams. Don’t be fooled! Any investment made in these schemes will not give you a positive return on investment. On the contrary, you will end
up losing money and may invoke closer scrutiny by the IRS and other government agencies.

Mark Kohler and Robert Moskowitz offer tips on avoiding these schemes:

1. The “Shelf Corporation.” Don’t invest thousands of dollars in a pre-made corporation in hopes of gaining immediate corporate credit. Doing this the right way takes time. If anyone proposes to help you gain instant credit through a “shelf corporation”, walk away.

2. Deal of the Century. Be cautious when a friend, neighbor, or fellow church member offers you a too-good-to-be-true deal. Be especially wary if that person says that there is no need for a lawyer to get involved in the process. It’s always advisable to consult a lawyer before entering into business agreement.

3. Business Coach. Just because someone hangs out a shingle and claims to be a coach does not necessarily mean that they are qualified to give out business advice. Be very wary of anyone who tries to dispense legal or tax advice. It’s a good idea to ask for credentials first to verify whether or not they have the expertise you need.

4. State Filing Fees. In most states you do have to pay a small fee to file incorporation papers and other legal documents. In this case, a fee must accompany the filing. You will not receive a bill after sending the documents. Typically, the filing will be rejected and returned, if something is wrong with your paperwork or the appropriate fees were not included. If you do receive a bill after the fact, it’s most likely a scam.

5. Business Funding Kits. No matter what the sales pitch may be, there is no reason to invest in “high-priced” information on how to get grants or no-interest loans for your business. You can usually research this information for yourself at little to no cost. The information contained in these kits is often too general and inaccurate to be of real use.

6. Phantom Investors. Use caution if someone approaches “out of the blue” offering to invest in your company, assuming it meets their qualifications. They will require lots of documentation to verify your eligibility. Often scammers will use this approach to steal your corporate identity.

7. Advance-Fee Loans. Bottom Line: Legitimate lenders do not required an upfront processing fee to determine whether or not you qualify for a loan.

8. Overpayment Retainer. Never accept overpayment by a customer for your product or service. It’s not a retainer; it’s a scam!

9. Inventory Liquidation. If someone offers to pay you a commission to help source companies with excess inventory to sell, be very cautious. Typically, the scammer promises to “turn over” the inventory quickly and secure a high return for you, but you have to pay a franchise fee. In the end, the sale never happens and your franchise fee is not refundable.

For more tips on these and other small business scams, go to Scam-Proof Your Business and Avoid These 5 Small Business Scams.

Click here to find out more about Shelf Corporations.

To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to

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