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Finding Or Backgrounding A Business

Background Checks On A Business Or Business Owner (Consumer-SOS)
Background the business and the decision makers behind it (i.e. its officers, agents or owner).

Locate Company Headquarters & Place of Incorporation & More (Consumer-SOS)
Good if you want to sue them, write the company a letter or just learn more about their officers and agents.

Non Profit Look Up With Just An Org Name or Zip Code-Find The President & Officers, Their Salaries, Addresses And More (Not All Non Profits Listed)
Learn about a non profit's assets, its mission statement, its president, etc., with just the org's zip code or org name or tax ID!
With the The Non Profit 990 Finder, also see the salary and director information that must be disclosed to the IRS. Note: 990s may be missing for small non profits that receive $25,000 or less annually.

Obtaining Corporate Records (On Public And Private Companies)
Comb through Securities & Exchange Commission fillings, trademark applications, and pending patents. Lots of free links.

Business Or Profession Or Certification (Consumer-SOS)
Find out the corporation's officers and agents and who they're associated with. Also verify if people truly own the business and more!

Finding Info On Businesses (Hoovers)
Tells you their name, address and phone number, what they do, their financials, and who their competitors are.

BBB National Complaint Database
Find the business by name, phone number or web address and learn who owns it.  To increase the chance of finding the company just enter a part of the company's name.

Resources On How To Profile Businesses
Whether it's researching their track record or looking for sanctions, this is the place.

Commercial Interstate Carriers (Movers & Truckers)
Search the Department of Transportation's SAFER database.  Searchable by firm name, DOT Number and Motor Carrier number. Use this database to get the truck's owner, insurance carrier, and crashes in the last two years.

Companies Sanctioned For Hiring Illegal Aliens (US)
Enter in a company name, Find the address, the # & type of immigration violations, the fines it received and the overall number of employees it has.

The Business Yellow Pages 
Find their phone number or address.

Toll-Free # Lookup For Businesses (Google)
Can also call 1-800-555-1212.

Better Business Bureaus
(Links Throughout The U.S.)
Look up a company by phone number, URL or location to find the name of the owner and the nature of any complaints against it.

Information On US & International Companies (Google)
Find the company behind the brand name, where they're located, their financial info, their officers, subsidiaries, who they advertise with, what media they use, and more.

Worldwide Business and Residential Telephone Directories

OOPS! I Sent The Package To The Wrong Address!!!! (Consumer-SOS)

Step by step on what to do. 
Corporate Consumer Contacts (List Of Addresses & Links To Their Headquarters)
Must scroll down alphabetical list.

www.Switchboard.com

www.infospace.com


www.theultimates.com



For More On Business Records,

See Public Records (Consumer-SOS)
and Businesses Matters (Consumer-SOS)

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Checking Out A Business
The Danger Signs To Look Out For
  (An Overview)
How To Background A Business Or Business Owner

 

Overview (What To Look for)
The sources below can help you identify scam operations from legitimate businesses.  But even legitimate firms are not always trustworthy.  Indeed, some legitimate companies have terrible track records.  

Before doing business with a firm, find out if others have been treated unfairly or have filed complaints against it.  Note that big firms are apt to receive more complaints than small firms, especially if they've been in business a long time or deal with a huge volume of customers.  

If a company has received several complaints, look into their nature as well as their number.  Then ask whether such is unusual given the organization's size and years in the business.

For small businesses, be sure to do a background check on the business owner.  A new business could be crooked but not yet have any complaints against it.

Be on the lookout for disreputable owners
and agents.  Red flags include people who have prison records, bad business dealings and lots of lawsuits.   Also be careful of those with expired professional certifications or those who've been disbarred or disciplined by their licensing boards. For More see Red Flags

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How To Background A Business Or Business Owner

  • Enter their business name or website address in the Better Business Bureau Complaint Database.
     
  • If nothing is found, do a Google Search with the name of the business in quotation marks.  Narrow your hits by adding extra words like FRAUD OR COMPLAINTS or add the state where the business is located. To confirm their business name or address, try a reverse lookup via the Google search box. Just punch in their phone number and omit all points, dashes or parenthesis. See Also, PO Box Lookup-Finding A Business Or Person Through Their Post Office Box
     
  • Be on the lookout for bogus businesses that claim to be corporations when they're  not. For firms ending in INC, LLC, LLP or CORP, check the Secretary Of State where the business is located.  All corporations (but not partnerships) must register with their secretary of state. Be sure to write down the names of the officers or agents as you may later be doing a background check on them. To find officers when you don't know the place of incorporation, see Officer & CEO Lookup. Leave the state box blank. 
     
  • For Charities and Non Profits, check out the IRS Charity Database, Guidestar and Charities (Consumer-SOS)
     
  • Look up who owns the website or business and then do a background search in Google and in Court/Prison records. For common names, enter the name in quotes and narrow your Google hits by adding the state where they live. To further refine your search, add the words FRAUD or Complaint or SUIT.
     
  • Check their website for trademark or copyright symbols (™ sm ®©) and see who owns them. Scamsters don't register their intellectual property. So be careful of firms that use these symbols but have not registered them.
     
  • Is the person a professional with a license or certification? See if they've been disciplined for bad conduct or have an expired license. You may find they don't even have a license!!!!! Does the business offer goods or services that must be licensed through the state licensing boards? To find out, make a list of their main products and services as well as the state(s) where they do business. (Their locations can be found via Google, the BBB or their own website)  Then check the the appropriate state licensing boards for complaints lodged against their business or their key employees. All states are different. You will have to scroll down the list of boards just to see if your area is even regulated. For example, in the case of lawyers or law firms, complaints can be found at every State Bar.  But in the case of home repair contractors or hearing aid dealers, such may be regulated in one state but not in another.
     
  • Look up their name in the Internet White Pages or do a reverse lookup on their residential address. Then give the person a call.  You're less likely to be cheated when it's obvious you know their whereabouts.
     
  • Find out what is said about the person in the local newspapers.  Many newspapers have search boxes where you can search stories and see if the person is mentioned in them.  Recommend you search by last name only. If you get too many hits, add their first name also.
     
  • Check The Other Ways To Background People.

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Find Where The Company is Headquartered or Incorporated
Each step is progressive with the easiest and most efficient steps first.

To Find Where The Company is Headquartered or Incorporated,

Look On:

1. The Product Box, Disc, or Manual for companies and their subsidiaries (may be several companies).

2. The Company Website (good for subsidiaries and may show which one sells what product).

3. Suing Publicly Trades Companies (US Only)
To find state of incorporation, principal place of business and the names and addresses and salaries of public officers, enter the company name in their search box up top.

4. Google or Google Scholar may also reveal the company headquarters or place of incorporation. For Example: to search for a lawsuit against the computer
company Nintendo, put in the search box,
v. Nintendo headquarters
, then use step #5 to confirm place of incorporation and principal place of business.

5. PACER,Party Name Search (Look for recent law suits-Complaint will list where each company is headquartered and the place of incorporation)
Sign in, enter in a company name, click "Search" and sort by "Date Filed" Column to get the most recent cases. Then click on a recent case, click on
"Docket Report" and then "Run Docket Report."
Scroll down to the various entries and select the one that says COMPLAINT (Usually will be the first or second item). (Note PACER won't bill you if your
total annual charges are less than $10).
    
6. The Local Secretary of State (by now you’ll know which state or states to search in and can confirm where incorporated and headquartered)
Often agents and officers will be listed along with their titles.
When Filing a Legal Complaint against a company, Choose the entity address over the address of registered agent (if different).

7. Find out Who Owns The Website if You Can’t The Find Name Incorporated Anywhere (Good For Porn Companies that have a different corp. name from what's on their website (see http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp ). To find domain info concealed by private hosting services, Google the name of the website and the term “whosis”. Example: www.xxx.com whosis This may show the information that was published before they decided to hide it.

8. Find out who owns trademark (TM, ®) and search the Secretary of State for that company.

9. Google search Defendant’s name with the term 10K or "annual report". Click on “advance search” and limit to within a year, for the most recent data.
(Various docs may list where company headquartered or incorporated).



Other Red Flags

a. Individuals or organizations that have received an unusual number of complaints against them. (Contact your local BBB and the BBB where the company is located).

b. Small companies that have been sued often for breach of contract, misrepresentation or fraud. (Call the state and superior courts in the surrounding counties).

c. Firms or individuals that have been disciplined by their state licensing boards or the government. (Contact applicable licensing agencies and your Secretary Of State).

d. Firms ending in "Co.", Inc. or "Corp." that haven't registered or qualified with the Secretary Of State and Business Licensing/Tax Division.  

e. Firms that are unlicensed or seriously late in paying incorporation fees, business license dues or other fees required by law. (Ask this information from each of the agencies above).

f. Firm Owners with a bad reputation. Look for lawsuits, prison records, and complaints against them by their licensing boards.

g. Businesses/Business Owners with a PO Box for an address or list a physical address that is really just a disguised a PO box or mail drop. Most people have street addresses.  Scamsters often won't.

h. The only # You're Given Turns Out To Be A Cell Phone.

i. Any other claim that is shown to be false or unsubstantiated. 

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