How to Check a Company's Business Reputation

By eHow Contributor

Wondering if a company is reputable? Whether you're buying from them, doing business with them, hiring them or thinking of working for them, it always pays to check a business's reputation. For large companies and small businesses alike, here are some great online tools -- all free -- to do just that.

Check two Better Business Bureau sites for a company's track record with customer complaints -- the national BBB database, as well as the state (or regional) BBB that covers the particular company. You can search on a firm's name, address, phone, website or email.

Run a Whois Search. Take a good look at a company's Whois record. Whois is the official registration record of a organization's website. If the website is brand new or set to expire soon, you may be looking at a fly-by-night company. If there is no company address or contact information for a person at the company, ask yourself why a business would choose to hide such information. While there may be some legitimate reasons, scam companies frequently hide their Whois information.

Check the "V." Do a Web search on the letter V and the company name, like this: "v companyname"...include the quotation marks in the search. This brings up any records of lawsuits, which are typically of the form "Party A -v- Party B." If a company has variations on their name (e.g., DuPont or Du Pont), search on these as well. While a lawsuit is not, in itself, proof of any shady business dealings, the case files can be a rich source of information on how a company conducts itself.

Ask EDGAR. Ask Who? EDGAR is the SEC's database of millions of company reports. Even companies that don't report themselves are often mentioned in other company reports, and you can find information about them using EDGAR's full-text search features. You can also search EDGAR for names of individuals to learn more about company executives.

Searches at EDGAR, like all the resources mentioned here, are absolutely free.