As a small business owner, no one needs to tell you that getting a loan from traditional banks can be a real crapshoot. Far more often than not, when a small business rolls the dice and asks for a loan, they get double sixes and walk away empty-handed. Nationally, banks reject small business loan applications 80 percent of the time, on average.
A new form of funding has arisen in recent years. This source promises to be more willing to loan small businesses the money they need to start a company, hire employees, expand operations, and buy or lease new equipment. Online loans and cash advances have filled a big gap in the capital pipeline, but in several cases, the payout has not been worth the gamble. Many small businesses have been stuck with loans laden with hidden fees, containing sky-high interest rates, and requiring unfriendly repayment terms.
This isn’t to say there aren’t good online lending companies. There are. But as with anything on the Internet, there are a lot of unscrupulous operators online and they aren’t looking to help you or your business. Quite the opposite… they’re out to scam you. Like a crooked card dealer, they want to deal you a bad hand so they can steal your credit, your good name and anything else they can grab before you catch on that you’ve been had.
No one likes being played for a sucker. How can you protect your small business and even the odds that when you apply for an online loan or cash advance you’re not really funding someone else’s scam?
Here are five things to keep vigilant for when investigating any online loan or cash advance company.
No contact information: Before you do anything else, the first sign to look for to see if an online lender is legit is the simplest task to perform.If you can’t easily find thecompany’s address and telephone number on the website, that’s a very bad sign. When you do find the info, if the address is only a P.O. Box, leave. If there’s a physical address, look it up on Google Maps’ Street View feature. Is it an office? Or is it a home, apartment or worst of all, an empty field? If an office, how many other companies share that same address? Believe it or not, there are firms that lease the same office suite to dozens of companies so that they will have a physical address. No one is ever in that office, of course.
Closely related to that is the email address. A legitimate company will have its own email address that matches the firm’s URL. If the contact information is for a generic address, such as g-mail, y-mail, Hotmail or some other free email service, bail out.
Guaranteed loan: This should be an obvious red flag. No legitimate lender would ever guarantee a loan before knowing anything about you. Read the fine print… this loan is sure to come with an interest rate in the stratosphere or have fees for nearly everything under the sun. Even worse, they may promise a guaranteed loan but leave you instead with a guaranteed nightmare when they steal your information. Save yourself the trouble. Walk away from any “deal” like this.
Too aggressive: Who hasn’t bought a used car at some point in their life? If you’ve ever had a pushy salesperson, what was your instinct? To run, right? Same with online loans. If you’ve contacted the lender and that person seems pushy, wants you to make a quick decision, seems hesitant to answer more than a few questions, or gets angry when you ask for additional options, then you’re very likely dealing with someone out to pad their bank account, not yours. Take a pass.
Money upfront: If you’re asked for money upfront to get a loan, flee immediately. No legitimate lender will ask for money upfront before approving a loan. When you pay money upfront, what’s very likely to happen is that money – and the lender – will quickly disappear. Don’t do it. Ever.
The best advice of all – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: We saved the best one for last. Actually, this is the only one you really need, isn’t it? Like any other business, lenders need to make money on their services. As a small business owner, you certainly don’t begrudge anyone for making money. But if someone offers you a “deal” that sounds like a dream come true, you need to ask yourself is it really a dream, or a nightmare waiting to happen. Why would someone offer a loan that seems to offer all the benefit to you? They wouldn’t. Any business needs to make a return. If you’re staring at a loan deal that sounds to good to be true, you can bet it is. The lender will get something in return – something you may not have counted on. For example, online lenders often express interest as “simple interest.” The truth is “simple interest” is anything but simple and the actual APR (the real annualized interest rate) can often be four to eight times the amount stated. And, in some cases even more! Make sure that your terms are not expressed as simple interest, so you know your true cost of borrowing. This is not to say every “too good to be true” deal is a scam. Just like not every online lender that matches one of these tips is a scammer. But do you really want to take that chance? Move on while you can.
If you are considering an online loan or cash advance, do your due diligence. If something doesn’t seem right, if you aren’t comfortable, then that’s your intuition warning you of danger. Heed those warnings.
There is another, less-risky way to raise money for your small business. This option is called invoice factoring. Invoice factoring allows you to “sell” your accounts receivable invoices to a third party. This third party pays you upfront for outstanding invoices, giving you the cash you need today to run your business, and eliminating the worry and hassle of slow pay collections leaving you free to run your business.
Invoice factoring is a convenient alternative to a traditional bank loan or fee-laden online loans. Factoring gives you the money you need when you need it with no long-term obligations. You can also get cash quicker through invoice factoring – usually within a day or two. If you would like to learn more about how invoice factoring works, simply call toll-free 1-855-219-6008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You may find it to be the best hand you’ve been dealt in a long time.