If you're in the start-up business, you've probably already been the recipient of dozens, if not more emails from "professionals" looking to "help" you take your business to the next level. Their promises and stats to back up their claims may seem impressive, but how can you really know if these people (if they are actual people at all) are the real deal and not "snake oil salesmen" seeking to take advantage of your eagerness to succeed in your new endeavors?

With email subjects along the lines of, "I noticed you have a small business," "Here's a friends and family discount (just because)," "This new platform will grow your business," and "Money-making guaranteed," it's easy to see why up and coming start-up owners can fall for the traps set by these leeches. Before they have a chance to look into what they've signed up for, more times than not, business owners wind up wasting time and losing money… not making more as guaranteed.

Don't fall victim to scams and schemes put forth by snake oil salesmen looking to make a quick buck off your hard work. Here are some ways to spot the sleaze balls and save your business during the critical start-up stages when you need to make the best use of your valuable resources. Show those snakes the door and let them slither over to the next sucker.

Check Them Out on Social Media

If an email promise sounds too good to be true, it probably is. One way to verify the "facts" a snake oil salesman is spewing forth is to spy on their social media presence and activity.

Dickson Interactive offers some signs to look out for to determine if a company is really all they claim to be.

  • 1. They only tweet about themselves and what they are doing
  • 2. Their Facebook posts have no links and they have very few "likes"
  • 3. They have a scant social media audience
  • 4. There are no testimonials or case studies posted

And if you cannot find them on social media at all… run for the hills. Any decent company in this day and age knows the importance of having a social media presence. It's a sign of validity and knowledge about the industry and how people consume information.

They Are "The Best" at What They Do

If a company or person is the shining star in their field, they don't need to remind you. Their work and reputation should speak for itself, not the other way around. Oprah doesn't introduce herself as "Queen" of the daytime talk show, it's a crown she earned by proving her worth.

As per LinkedIn, "Like hotels called 'Palace' or countries with 'Democratic' in their name, it's only necessary to mention this if it's not immediately obvious from their reputation." Self-describing as a "guru" is not only pompous, but usually far from the truth.

These scammers will spin stories about made-up or inflated successes, use buzzword after buzzword in place of real numbers and methodology, and will give the run-around rather than any proof of measured results. "The best" in the biz won't cold call (or email) fresh start-ups looking to make a quick buck.

They Are Unprofessional

"Make money now," and "As Seen on Dr. Oz," in an email subject is for fools to believe in, not for smart and savvy start-up owners to fall for. Any email with that sort of subject line is surely filled with further fluff designed to scrape from the bottom of the business barrel for those who don't have much knowledge as to how to run a company. Snake oil-types will use unprofessional hooking-in practices to prey on those who are looking for the easy way out. What they don't realize is that they won't find it from a snake-oil salesman.

According to Econsultancy, "(A so-called 'professional') who doesn't do the basics (eg. Detail the terms of engagement and specify tangible deliverables, milestones and timeframes, etc.) is probably conning you." Additionally, "If they aren't well-versed in the basics that you'd expect a consultant to have demonstrable experience with, they're not going to be able to deliver, and an 'expert' who doesn't discuss risks and challenges probably isn't an expert."

Steer clear not only of jargon that sounds unbelievably impressive, but simply unbelievable. Scare tactics, outrageous claims, and anything that seems suspicious probably is. These snake oil salesmen send out mass mailings hoping for a bite so they can poison with their venom.

If you're not sure if someone who has contacted you is the real deal, visit AngelList. Connect with trusted start-up focused professionals who can help you grow your business with professionalism, honesty, and proven results.

You've made it this far in your start-up endeavor, don't get side-tracked by a conniving con artist. You're far slicker than any snake.

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I thought I had a pretty good handle on my finances out of school. I worked several jobs while attending university and had little to no problem managing my income. However, once I graduated, I realized how much more complicated personal accounting could really be.

There were so many variables I needed to keep track of. Biweekly bills, monthly charges, and general necessities amounted to a heap of confusing numbers that were often impossible to decipher. The funniest part was that I was actually trying to do this by hand (I don't know what I was trying to prove to myself, either).

After messing up for the 17th time, I decided to give Microsoft Excel a shot. I used Excel a bit in school and I knew all the big-wig finance people used it, so what could I possibly have to lose? The answer is about six hours of my precious time. Excel isn't much of an improvement over handwriting and it's still dependent on the user to manually input all of the information. It's like doing everything by hand with the slightest help, meaning that it still required a tremendous amount of time and concentration. Well that was all for nothing, I guess.

It's sort of funny. I was certain that I could manage my personal finances with ease, when it's practically a full-time job. I was already stressed out enough with my first job and I knew I didn't have enough time to give my finances the attention it deserved.

That's why I decided to try out a budgeting app. My best friend told me that he uses an app called Truebill to manage his finances. "What does it even mean to manage your finances?" I asked him. He told me that Truebill was the personal financial assistant I wished I could have. It could aggregate all of my account information into one place and give me specific insights and actions.

I loved the idea of having full control over my finances, especially during a time of financial uncertainty, and I realized that Truebill would be the easiest way to accomplish this. The user interface is incredibly simple and intuitive, so it doesn't even feel like a finance app! Truebill offers a multitude of features, with their most popular being the ability to cancel subscriptions with the press of a button.

Okay, I had no idea how many subscriptions I was still subscribed to. In fact, I wasn't even using a quarter of the subscription services I was signed up for. Subscription boxes, streaming services, my old gym, and even an old subscription to my favorite magazine--it was all there and I was livid. How could I let myself waste all of this money and how did I never catch this? Thank goodness for Truebill.

Truebill also offers bill negotiations. There is a 40% fee based on how much you save and Truebill even claims that there is an 85% chance that they'll be able to lower your bill once a negotiation is requested. Why wouldn't I take them up on this? There was zero risk and I would only have to pay once my bill was lowered (which means that I would be saving money regardless).

More standard features of Truebill include the ability to generate a credit report on-demand and even request a pay advance. I only used the pay advance feature once when I wanted to buy a gift for my mom, but didn't have enough cash in hand and Truebill automatically reimbursed itself when I got my next paycheck.

The credit report is another fantastic feature and practically taught me what good credit meant. Truebill's credit report basically shows you which financial decisions have the most significant impact on your credit score and ways that you can improve your credit month-over-month. I've never had such control over my credit and it feels good.

I'll be the first to admit that I was extremely naive coming out of school. I figured that as long as I was attentive, I could manage my finances with ease. We manage money to some extent throughout our entire lives, but once you're thrown out on your own, it's a completely different story. With Truebill, I've finally been able to take control over my finances and stay on top of all of my responsibilities.

Update: Our friends at Truebill are extending a special offer to our readers! Follow this link to sign-up for Truebill.

My buddies and I always try to make it out to a game, but we never really care which one we end up at. Obviously we have our favorite sports and teams, but it was rarely about what game we went to or who we saw playing. It was about watching the game live.

In the early months of lockdown, all we had was Korean baseball, and trust me, we loved it. The only issue was, none of us had any idea what the commentators were saying. Even then, a few of my friends weren't huge fans of baseball. They were into sports like football and basketball, ones that moved at a quicker pace with less down-time in between plays.

We decided to see if there were any other events going down and came across horse racing. Yes, horse racing. It was perfect--short, fast-paced, and most importantly, an opportunity for betting.

I had never really considered watching a horse race any time other than the Belmont Stakes, but the prospects of the sport seemed exhilarating. Even better, with horse racing we knew we could still recreate the atmosphere of a race track. Salty snacks? Check. Stale beer? Check. A simple and easy way to bet? Check.

One quick Google search later, we came across TVG, powered by FanDuel. It's an online betting platform that takes you right to the heart of the action. We were a little apprehensive about using a mobile app to place our bets, but TVG's ability to bet on live horse races from all over the world was too good to pass up.

Here are 5 reasons why we are obsessed with horse racing thanks to TVG:

1. Betting has never been easier

Use your phone or computer to watch and bet on live horse races in real-time. TVG offers a bunch of features to make betting even simpler--live odds and handicapping tips leverage recent learnings to help you make your best bet. Not to mention, TVG's exclusive race content and wagering guide offers an under-the-hood look into the strategy behind horse race betting.

2. The biggest selection of horse races out there

If you're looking to drop a little dough on a horse race, chances are your best option is your local race track. But watching the same few horses races over and over again isn't the most exciting thing. With TVG you have access to over 150 tracks worldwide with races happening consistently throughout the day.

3. Get a generous sign-up offer when you place your first bet

Once you register your account, you will be eligible for a $200 risk-free bet. All you have to do is place your first bet and you're covered. If you happen to lose, TVG will insure you for up to $200 as a sort of wagering credit. I may have been a little trigger happy when placing my first bet, so having this insurance was a great perk. There are also a bunch of promotional offers available year-round.

4. Making deposits and cashing out at the touch of button

With a ton of payment options such as PayPal, BetCash, debit/credit, wire transfers, and other third-party services, making a deposit is a breeze. But what about the payout? Depending on your deposit method, your withdrawal will be available in a few days. No more waiting in-line to collect your winnings!

5. Watching live races with your friends while betting is exhilarating

Even when we were watching Korean baseball, Zoom calls with my friends were a little dull.

With TVG, we haven't had this sort of fun in months! Every weekend we'll turn on a race and throw our bets in. After a few races, and quite a few drinks, we'll tally up our winnings to see who won the most! Sometimes it's not even about making money, but just having a good time.

TVG is the perfect way to add a little excitement to an otherwise mundane afternoon. It introduced me to the world of horse racing, a sport I never would have considered otherwise.

The races just keep ramping up and thanks to TVG, I can always get in on the fun.

UPDATE: The biggest derby in horse racing is THIS WEEKEND. Get in on the action with your $200 risk-free bet!

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