Run, don’t walk

Q: What’s the 411 on Internet business opportunities? Are sites promising a very lucrative return on your investment legit? And where would we start?
– K. & M. Hemphill, Duncanville, Texas

A: Run as far away from such services as fast as you can. Companies promising huge returns on your investment are at best unreliable and at worst scams.

Because of your question, I decided to sign up with one such service. Two minutes after I’d signed up to start making thousands per week, I received an e-mail directing me to call a number.

I searched the Website for additional information on contacting someone directly–or even an address–but could find none. Legitimate businesses provide real and direct contact information on the site. What’s more, to start my online business I’d have to purchase a Web packet from the company, which could run from a few hundred dollars, plus monthly payments, to several thousand. No thanks.

Hint No. 1:

Hint No. 2: If a company is requesting money up front and you aren’t sure what the “business” opportunity is, walk away.
But the real clue that you should run, not walk, away from such offers is simple: the language. Terms such as free, guaranteed, limited time offer, easy, and so on, generally spell trouble.

Your best bet? Contact the Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) or the Service Core of Retired Executives (www.score.org) for help and advice. Once you develop a business plan, look at services such as Microsoft’s bCentral (www.bcentral.com), AT&T’s Small Business Center (www.business.att.com/products), or IBM’s Small Business Center (www.ibm.com/ businesscenter).

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