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Completing the Puzzle: Verifying Company Claims & Information January 27, 2012

Posted by Chris Mark in Risk & Risk Management.
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I have received a few emails over the past several weeks on how companies can have assurance that the security provider they are evaluating is on the up and up.  Sometimes a little due diligence goes a long way.  Here is a quick and easy start to your verification.

1) Check business formation dates.   In the US (and I am sure many other countries) business data such as incorporation dates, etc. are public record.  Companies need to be registered in a particular state or states.  If you do a quick Google search on the particular state you can find where the records are kept.  For example, in Utah you simply go the the following website: https://secure.utah.gov/bes/action .  In Nevada you would visit: http://nvsos.gov/sosentitysearch/corpsearch.aspx  in New York you would visit: http://www.dos.ny.gov/corps/bus_entity_search.html   If a company claims to have been doing business since 2001 and there are only records from 2005, you know that they are likely not telling the truth.  Additionally, you can find if the business license was ever revoked, dissolved etc.

2) Check the WayBack Machine.  http://www.archive.org   The Internet archive is very familiar to geeks but many others are not aware it exists.  Here you can see what a company’ website looked like at a very particular point in time.  A word of caution.  Some sites are not archived and some are only periodically archived.  That being said, if there is a snapshot of a company’s website from a particular date you can learn quite a bit.  For example, if a company claims to have provided maritime security services since 2008 and their website snapshot from 2009 shows no indication of such a service it should raise red flags.  Often, companies will ’embellish’ or change information on their website without realizing that the snapshot exists.  Like #1 above, if a company claims to have been in business since 2001 but their snapshot from 2008 shows a founding date of 2004, you have to question the validity of the 2001 date.

3) Google, Google, Google some more.  Google is an extremely powerful search tool.  It can use Boolean logic to conduct searches.  What is Boolean operators to make your searches more precise?  Here is a link to using boolean operators in Google searches.  Boolean operators are things like the use of quotes to have Google search for a complete phrase such as “Chris Mark” instead of Chris Mark which would result in a search for Chris, and Mark, and Chris Mark.  You can also use the AND or a + sign to narrow the searches.  For example:  “Chris Mark” + security will pull up all links to Chris Mark and Security.  You can search within a specific website with the Site:   such as “Chris Mark” Site: NYTimes.com  Within Google don’t forget you can use the advanced search function on the left hand side of the page to search by specific dates.  Again, if a company claims they have been around since 1990, you would expect to see some searches returned for the dates 1990.  Unless told, Google will provide the most relevant links first.  If you tell it to search by date it will provide very specific information on dates.

4) Search blogs, and forums.  Often people with publish their opinions in blogs and forums.  While the information should be taken with a grain of salt it certainly can give you information on companies and the perception within a particular group.  Find forums relevant to the industry and search for the principals of the company or the company.

While this is not an exhaustive list of techniques to verify company information, with some practice these four steps will provide a laundry list of information that can be used to verify whether claims are accurate or not.  Companies that change their claims and contradict themselves should be looked at very carefully.

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