And for the most part, those offers usually are.

How many times have you had an offer come up or presented and you thought “WOW! Just what I needed!” And there you go full force into the project only to find out it was not what it seemed to be? I know I have, one too many times. But it has left me more wary and probably a bit more cynical especially when dealing with companies that promise money for little to nothing. I am not saying that there are not legitimate ones out there, but for the most part, everybody if looking to make a dollar and there are those out there who are willing to steal from you just to make that dollar.

Every week I have offers from companies that claim to want to help me expand my product line, give me money or get me into a sweet corner of the world…all I need to do is give them some money. Now, we do live in a capitalistic society and you cannot expect to get something for nothing. That is all well and good, but let’s look to see what it is that they are offering and what it is that they want in return for that offering. When we do a simple Google search or even ask a trusted business mentor, we find out that the offer is no better than the proverbial bridge in Brooklyn and resort on the far side of the moon that is for sale. But what is worse, is that once we have been hoodwinked, we find ourselves very embarrassed and unwilling to share the experience for fear of being looked at by our business peers as foolish or ignorant. The truth is, these sharks are getting more crafty and you can be someone who does your research, but you are still only human and they do find ways of getting through and doing their damage. The thing is not to hide, but to expose them and to help other small businesses be wary of them as well.

I have had one Washington based company, Empower Your Dreams, hoodwink me to the tune of nearly $1,000.00. Unfortunately, even after contacting the Attorney General of Washington state, very little could be done because of my physical location. That was a very powerful lesson for me to learn. I did what I thought at the time was due diligence, I checked out their website and they even came recommended by someone who had helped me previously. But the set up was wonderful and the take down classic. Another came in the form of entry into one of the US’s top retailers, nation wide access. Again, the set up was wonderful. I was still reeling from the previous one and was willing to just keep my head in the sand and plow on ahead. But here comes a friend, or so I had hoped, who told me that a friend of her’s wanted to help take my products national! Was I willing to go forward? Of course I jumped at the chance.

I thought this was the opportunity that I was waiting for. I did my due diligence. Spoke with both principles of the company. Did my Google search and found very credible evidence on both of them. Found their websites and received plenty of documentation from both of them and thought, “Hallelujah! I have finally made it.” So I put my plans together. Get my business plan and financials all together. Begin looking for ground and seeking financing. But now comes the bump, the company now seems to be splitting. Irreconcilable Differences. No worries, the current “partner” I am speaking with is the true brains and money man. So we will continue. I thought, be careful, but all the proper paperwork came through, all the potential and just signed deals and now the product development contract comes through. Would you believe this scam lasted for one year! The time this one took was ridiculous. There was a answer for every question. There was a paper trail of the companies listed with the Florida State Licensing Bureau. But Photoshop and artful web design programs can do just as much damage.

Sometimes the scams that come are not so in your face that you can identify them. Sometimes they come from those who are close to you, either willingly or unwillingly. But always question, and never feel ashamed for questioning contracts and proposals. Especially if they seem too good to be true. Now, I let the scams work its way through until I see just how much money I have to spend to get something first. The high fees are seemingly  becoming a thing of the past. Now, they are asking for $500. But $500.00 from 10 people is $5000.00 and that is a good haul for one day’s worth of work. As a small business, you need to watch every penny you get. During this financial time we are in, we need to be careful of each penny we spend as well. True, I am sure there are great and trustworthy companies and people out there who are genuinely there to help small businesses such as myself and others. But with the high rate of unethical scammers out there, their voices are getting lost in the din.

If you fall victim, do not be ashamed and hide. It happens to the best of us. It has happened to me. It has made me question why I am in business. It has gotten me angry. But , it has made me a better person and taught me to look very carefully at what is being presented and to better scrutinize contracts and ask the difficult questions. If they are true, then they will allow the questions, (even though most scammers now allow you to ask and try to put you at ease). What these experiences have taught me is to trust my instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, chances are it isn’t and with good reason.

Let’s empower ourselves. This is a departure from my normal blogs, but I thought that this was important enough to discuss. I know if this has happened to me, then there are others this has happened to and may be happening now to at this moment.