I’d like to share a disturbing phenomenon we’ve observed in our data, one that probably impacts many of you who provide services to online businesses.
When a new customer is entered into our system, we crawl for additional information about them on the web as well as look for them elsewhere in our system. As we grow and see more companies and the people who owe them money, we start to see chains of debts that are linked to one another. Deeper linking checks revealed that the individuals connected with these debts owned multiple websites, some of them dysfunctional, and often with web hits that indicated some kind of foul play.
As we dug deeper, the picture cleared. There is a large number of individuals, operating online, starting and closing businesses in a highly irresponsible manner bordering on fraud. These individuals, by and large (as far as we can see) unrelated to one another, tend to serially open businesses with hardly defensible business models, contract the majority of the work for them to third parties, charge unsuspecting consumers large amount of money, and move on to the next business. We are unable to determine, at this time, whether this is pure fraudulent behavior or just extreme irresponsibility, but the pattern exists. We see it across fashion, insurance, financial planning and several other services.
As a business owner, you should be aware of this pattern, especially if you are providing services to online businesses. Design, eCommerce, Hosting and other related services are especially vulnerable since they are key in starting a new online property. TrueAccord customers can ask for access to our Data Furnishing program, that can provide data to help identify these individuals before they are able to do business with you. We recommend that, before you take on new customers for large projects, you run a manual search of their web history, previous businesses, and other owned domains. You may (or may not) be surprised to discover a few of those in your own customer roster.