Summary. The Consumer Defense Resource Group has developed the Company Legitimacy Ranking System as a simple rating system to assess the legitimacy of any unknown Internet-based company. The point system is to rank companies from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest and best ranking. There are 10 questions. Each question is worth 1 point. This list was established based on a fraudulent company that ranked zero on this 10-point scale.
1. Employees. Does the company website include the names of the people who work for the company? Yes = 1 point.
2. Physical Address. Does the company website provide an address for a physical office where the company is located. Yes = 1 point.
3. Working Phone Numbers. Does the company website provide phone numbers for departments and employees and do those numbers actually work? Yes = 1 point.
4. Website Spelling and Grammar. Does the company website have correct spelling and grammar? Yes = 1 point.
5. Website Page Title Names. Do the pages on the company website have names, or are the names indicated as “Untitled.” If the pages have the name “Untitled” this is an indication that the site may have quickly been thrown together using a template. If the pages have names, add 1 point.
6. Website Address Page Names. Are the html names on the website consistent with the names of the pages? For example, if the page is for Sales, the html address or page name should be something like sales.html. If the page is simply 4.html, then this could indicate the company doesn’t have the qualified staffing necessary to properly design a site. If yes, and the pages have accurate descriptive names, then add 1 point.
7. Actual Original Photos and Graphics. Are the graphic images on the website accurately representative of the actual company or are they stock photos? If they are impersonal stock photos, are the images at least relating to the business the company is in? For example, if it is a computer sales company, but there is only one image repeatedly used throughout the site and the image has nothing to do with computer sales, this might indicate something is wrong. It is an indication that a simple template was used for the website. If the answer to question #7 is yes, that the site does have actual company photos and they communicate what the business is and does, then add 1 point.
8. News and Public Knowledge. Perhaps the company website makes a claim stating that they have 10 million square feet of space and they are ranked in the top 100 of their industry for 3-years in a row. Such an impressive and well known company has certainly been mentioned on numerous other websites. Perform a search on Google for the company name. Scroll to the bottom of the first Google search results page. Are there fewer than 7 pages listed? This is an unusually low number for a substantial company. Click on the link for page two of the Google search results. Do the number of search results drop from over 1000 to fewer than 50 links on two results pages? This would be a matter of concern. However, if there are over 100 pages listed of positive links for the company, then add 1 point.
9. Better Business Bureau. Check the Better Business Bureau for more information about the company. If there are no complaints against the company, then add 1 point.
10. References. Does the company provide you with references for satisfied customers and legitimate companies they have worked with? Are you able to contact them to confirm that they are satisfied? If not, this would be a matter of concern. If yes, then add 1 point.
Rating. Most reputable legitimate companies should rank between 7 to 10 on the above impartial ranking system. If the company has a ranking of 3 or fewer, this would be a matter of serious concern. If you are interested in more information about a company, feel free to contact us. Perhaps we can direct you to the appropriate consumer or federal agency to assist you further.
Other Indicators. Here are some other indicators of fraud:
- If your dealings have been primarily by phone, ask for a physical address of their office and then use a mapping website to determine if it is a legitimate address. Street level view can also help in this regard. Make sure they actually have an office where someone can be held accountable. If they won’t provide a physical address, then they are probably a scam.
- If the website address provided goes to a website that is under construction or for sale, then they are probably a scam.
- If people only use their first names and don’t provide a last name. This is an indication that they are trying not to be identified or held accountable.
Additional Resources. One useful online resource is Web of Trust. You can lookup a company website and determine legitimacy based on member evaluation feedback.