How to verify that a business really exists

February 10, 2014 - Tags: Buying Managing

Just as consumers check to make sure a business is legitimate before they buy, you likely do the same before your business has dealings with someone new. Whether you're looking to buy from a supplier, donate to a non-profit organization, or collaborate with another business on a project, you want to make sure you aren't taking unnecessary risks.

If you're dealing with a federally incorporated business, your search should be straightforward as those businesses are listed in Corporations Canada online database. Generally, all businesses — even federally incorporated ones — have to register in the province or territory in which they do business. This includes corporations, partnerships, and sole proprietorships (except those operating under a person's name). You may wish to seek information from the provincial registrars, some of which are available online, particularly when dealing with smaller businesses.

There are several ways you can investigate a business:

  • Look it up. Do an Internet search using whatever information you have (name, address, phone number) and visit or call to see if it is what it claims to be.
  • Put the word out on social media and look for online reviews. If the business has a presence there, someone will likely be talking about it or to its representatives.
  • Ask for references from suppliers or clients (this option may not work for a very new business with few or no previous clients).
  • Check with industry or trade organizations in your province or territory.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau; it provides reports on businesses and charities in both Canada and the United States.

Once you've verified to your own satisfaction that a business exists, it is wise to proceed with caution. If you decide to do business with someone you haven't dealt with before, you may want to start with a smaller, less risky transaction (if possible) to see how things go, until you feel comfortable that this is a business you can trust. This will also allow you to see how the business operates in terms of deadlines and customer service. If you are not satisfied, or something still doesn't seem right, you may decide not to proceed.

Verifying information is important to protecting your business. Find out about other ways to keep your business secure and to minimize risk.

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