10 Online Scams That Target Small Businesses

Business Coaches
Successful business coaches shouldn't have to use the hard sell to market themselves; watch out for high fees and pushy sales tactics. © PictureNet/Corbis

If you're perusing a website that pertains to starting a small business, you'll invariably see ads for business-coaching programs and seminars. These companies promise to transform your business — and therefore, your life, if you just take their advice ... and give them your money.

The hallmark of online business scams (and most scams in general) is the requirement of upfront fees, and business advice seminars are no different. What sets them apart is the exorbitant sums that some end up extracting when all is said and done — sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. They also have another crucial trait of many particularly damaging cons: They play on emotions to reel people in and keep them coming back for more. If you're struggling to start a business and things aren't going well, these scammers will play on your desperation and promise your ultimate goal: a new life full of success and free of worry.

Of course, there are many honest, effective business coaches out there, but it can be difficult to tell the good from the bad, especially when emotions are involved and the stakes are so high. The red flags are much the same as with any scam, though: Watch out for fees, constant phone calls, upselling and high-pressure sales tactics. And people who promise things they probably can't deliver.