Essential Tips for Verifying Information and Identities Online

December 25, 2015

4:00 pm

Knowing who you’re doing business with is a vital step in managing a successful startup. It sounds creepy, but the more you know about someone the better off you are when making a decision or striking a deal involving that individual. With this in mind it’s easy to see how the best business leaders can read a person’s character quickly. Rarely, if ever, do we have the time or money to hire private investigators to uncover the truth about potential employees, clients, and partners; it pays to have good gut instincts about people.

The slow but steady expansion of e-commerce and services available solely online is making it harder for folks to apply their natural lie-detector skills when it comes to advancing their startup. Humans evolved to take visual cues in real time when determining the emotions and intentions of other people. Separated and veiled by virtual reality, the online business world is a place where individuals and companies can present themselves in ways which aren’t always accurate.

Attention via Identity

One common tactic for online swindlers is to present an identity which draws more attention. Plainly speaking, this almost always involves establishing themselves as a young attractive woman. Outreach response rates are known to double and even triple when this strategy is applied. This tactic can be used across the board to fit the ideal profile a customer base expects or desires of a particular professional.

Business leaders can instruct their employees to use a variety of online tools to combat such practices. For example, Socialcatfish allows you to search for people using images. It’s primarily intended as a means for online daters to check up on those they get to know virtually, but can be used by companies to trace so-called profile pictures back to their source. Most fraudsters are lazy and will settle for images found online instead of finding their own original “model” to photograph.

Due Diligence May Work

Using search engines to confirm an alleged entity or individual requires more due diligence than in years’ past.  The more successful Internet con artists out there have long ago figured out how to use the gospel according to Google to their advantage. Everything you find will almost always invariably seem to confirm they are in fact a legitimate enterprise or professional, so how can we tell the real from the phony?

An online company or identity tends to be smoke and mirrors if there’s no easy way to reach them offline. Even then, many shady enterprises have gotten good at acquiring seemingly real phone numbers and addresses, so if things seem suspicious it’s a smart idea to call their regional chamber of commerce to confirm existence.

Stock Photos

Another clue hinting at deception is if the company website lacks content but is in no shortage of stock photos (see image search above.) Ironically, one of the biggest red flags is when a website makes a big deal about being part of the Better Business Bureau, which acts more like an organized crime syndicate than a form of quality-control assurance.

For thousands of years humans conducted business almost entirely face-to-face, honing our intuition about others. This is difficult to do in the Internet age where business deals and transactions have the potential to occur across thousands of miles of land and sea. Knowing who people really are—not just who they say they are—is only going to become more critical to the success of tech startups as we move deeper into the 21st century.

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