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Business offer may be a scam

Special to The Times

Dear Karen: I want to start a home business for extra income, but I wonder whether online offers are legitimate. How can I tell?

Answer: The Internet has extended the reach of scam artists targeting individuals looking for supplemental income. Would-be entrepreneurs should do extensive research on any business opportunity -- online or off -- particularly those that offer “easy money” with little education, training or investment needed.

Internet auction frauds are particularly common.

“You’ll find sites that say you can make $10,000 a month selling on EBay, and all you have to do is send $500 upfront to get a start-up kit or membership in a buying club. Either the inventory is junk, nonexistent or everyone else is already selling it,” said Michael Camodeca, president of Chicago-based SkyView Technology Inc.

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Be skeptical about any website business offers, no matter how professional they look, and vet them thoroughly, Camodeca said. A real company will have working telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.

Don’t submit financial information, such as Social Security or bank account numbers. Don’t purchase anything unless the site has a VeriSign encryption logo and starts with “https,” signifying a secure connection. It’s also better to use a credit card, which is insured for fraud losses, than a debit card, Camodeca said.

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Find partner with matching skills

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Dear Karen: I’m getting ready to open a pet-care business and would love a partner. Is there a rule of thumb for choosing someone?

Answer: Look for a partner whose skills complement yours, said Lysa Stewart, a management psychologist at RHR International. Approach an interview with a potential partner as a test, not a conversation, she said, and always consult an attorney.

Assess a potential partner’s skills by asking questions following the “CAR” model: the context, the individual’s actions and the result.

“Ask questions like, ‘Tell me about a time when you were unsuccessful in meeting a goal. What did you do to resolve it? What were the results?’ These kinds of questions will get at the heart of the individual’s behavior,” Stewart said.

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Shred unneeded sensitive data

Dear Karen: I worry about the information my company discards. Should we be shredding or recycling all of our trash?

Answer: Shred anything that could be potentially sensitive, said Joe Roberto, vice president of Shred-Tech. Destroy your paper records on a regular schedule based on their useful value and legal requirements. If you use a record storage facility, ask whether proper destruction services are in place.

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By all means, recycle nonsecure trash -- but don’t assume recycling is an alternative form of information destruction.

“Recycling companies sort paper using unscreened, minimum wage workers working in unsecured facilities,” Roberto said, adding: “There is no fiduciary responsibility inherent in the recycling scenario.”

If you have a large amount of sensitive trash, hire a mobile shredding service to come to your office. And don’t forget to destroy computer disks and old hard drives.

“Even though information may be erased before these items are discarded, experienced hackers can find a way to recover the information that may have been on them,” Roberto said.

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Got a question about running or starting a small enterprise? E-mail it to ke.klein@ latimes.com or mail it to In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.


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