US Small Business Association: Office of the Inspector General 409 3rd St, SW Washington, DC 20416 (800) 827-5722 external website
Follow the steps below for checking on a business before you buy or contact the organizations listed on the left. Click here to learn more about how this industry is regulated.
1. Don’t pick a firm "out of a hat."
Finding a company on Google or Amazon is convenient. But it’s the equivalent of picking a name out of a hat. Better approach: Ask family, friends, and colleagues for referrals.
2. Follow the "paper trail."
If an online merchant fails to display contact info, proceed with caution.
3. Look for companies that follow "best practices."
Try to deal with companies that believe in doing business the right way. Narrow your search to those belonging to professional business associations that promote best-practice standards.
4. Tap the "wisdom of the crowd."
Understand that companies sometimes "game" review sites by giving incentives to their customers to write positive reviews or by having employees write them. Bottom line: treat reviews as an important "data point," but not the only measure by which to evaluate a company.
5. Inspect the work.
If you’re happy with what you’ve seen and heard, ask to see evidence of their work.
6. Put the firm under a microscope.
If you have any further doubts about the company—or if the purchase is very large—check with state consumer protection agencies or consider purchasing a background check on the business owners and/or principals.