The craftiness and intelligence of scammers is increasing every day. The sheer number and variety of scams now targeting small business owners is amazing. Previously, most stories regarding scam artists focused on the individual consumer. Today's scams have a new mark in their sights, the new business owner hungry for avenues of quick, cheap marketing and overall exposure.
Entrepreneurs looking for additional exposure may look to join local or national networking groups or professional associations; there are multitudes to choose from. More credible sources include the local and state-wide Chamber of Commerce organizations which can provide not only training resources and business advocacy opportunities but networking events as well. Less known, and perhaps less reputable associations offer “limited or privileged membership to a select few” promising the ability to network with thousands of like-minded, successful individuals, even if most of the networking opportunities are done remotely or offered at all. Often, these exclusive memberships come at a price far higher than the amount initially quoted to prospective members and provide not much more than the ability to list their association’s name on your website or business card, if you dare. Business owners who do decide to place membership may also find themselves unwillingly billed for multiple year renewals without prior authorization or consent.
The scams don’t stop at false membership associations. One of the biggest areas of concern for new businesses is marketing and advertising. New business owners must decide the best way to utilize the precious few dollars earmarked for marketing while getting the most bang for the buck. While Google’s pay per click advertising is one of the most popular, it can easily become one of the most expensive methods of advertising if not managed closely. Scam artists have decided to jump on this bandwagon by contacting newly registered businesses and offering them heavily-discounted advertising plans with Google, Yahoo and other top named search engine sites. The deals are enticing, especially to cash-strapped owners, but be aware that these contact calls are often not from legitimate sources and the only thing they accomplish is exposing your credit card to unnecessary charges.
Another area of potential scam involving advertising involves the use of the popular posting site Craigslist. The site gained popularity as a means for individuals to post classifieds and participate in forums in their local area. Businesses can also post their services in appropriate areas of the site. Craigslist specifically states, “Please post to a single geographic area and category only -- cross-posting to multiple cities or categories is not allowed.” Yet there are companies who business is to list multiple postings on Craigslist for business owners, clearly in violation of Craigslist policy.
The above list is just a sampling of the many ways entrepreneurs may be lured into unethical or illegal business arrangements. There are of course, many legitimate companies offering services to help grow and expand your business. Be diligent in researching companies before signing on to any agreement and ask for the terms in writing prior to making a decision. Refrain from doing business with anyone who can’t or refuses to put their agreement in writing or who pressures you into making a decision over the telephone. If you have been the victim of one of these schemes, contact your credit card provider immediately and report the abuse. Unfortunately, the highly creative and business savvy visionaries don’t always use their powers for good.
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