Online Business Loan Research: Finding a Reputable Lender

Looking for an online business loan evokes uncertainty because of the lack of face-to-face communication.  While it is advisable to talk with someone prior to signing a loan contract, a lot of the initial research can be completed online to save time. There are a few simple things you can do to assure you are on the website of a reputable lender and not an Internet scam.

Look for Contact Information

Contact information should be readily displayed on a website, however, an email address and phone number is not enough information, the company should also list their company's physical address.  The address should be within the state the lender is approved for business.  Once you have the address, look them up using online mapping software to make sure it is a real address and is an office building. If the address appears to be a residence, consider it a big red flag. Also, compare the address listed on the site to that listed on the business directory.

Use a Business Directory

Business directories like Biz.com or Hoovers.com  can provide you with free general information.  An extensive company report will cost money, but a company's name, industry, date of incorporation and phone number should be accesible and free.  Additionally, the Yellow Pages or a simple search engine can help you with your search. 

Check with Ratings Organizations

The Better Business Bureau, Consumer Protection Agency and other ratings organizations are happy to provide you with information about the existence of a business and any complaints against that business. Consumer forums are readily available online for your convenience as well. These provide actual reviews from people who have been through the loan process before. Consider contributing to these forums about your experience after you have received your loan to help people like you in the future.  If a company does not have any reviews with the various organizations, it may be a sign they are a new company.

Research the URL

One of the simplest ways to find out who you are dealing with is to research the URL. You can use "whois.com" to find out who owns any given website. You can also find out how long the URL has been registered. Do not be scared off by a URL that is only a year or two old if the company is 4 or 5 years old. Many companies have just got around to securing their URL's appropriately. However, it is best if the URL has been registered for at least one year to the appropriate company.