If you are not a skeptical person you may be after reading this. Things are not always as they seem, especially online. Here’s how to know if an individual or company is a fraud.

1. Never Believe Social Following

Social media is incredibly easy to game, so massive follower numbers, likes, and even verification means nothing.  Just a few hundred dollars gets any fraud thousands of followers and getting that critical mass eventually leads to verification.

Furthermore, pictures and videos which seem cool, mean little. Often times pictures are photoshopped or over exaggerated, such as if I got a picture with Drake when I bump into him on the street and then post it claiming we are friends. Seems legit, but in reality, has no value.

2. Don’t Trust Press

Press means nothing. What most people don’t realize is that most major publications are run more so as blogs or pay-for-print type setups.  Anyone and their mother can get a position writing if they really wanted to and then in turn can push any content they want claiming anyone is cool or not.  Furthermore, a lot of these people will write anything you tell them if you pay them or have a PR consultant.  All of this adds together that having an article about you in Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, or even the Wall Street Journal means little in terms of work ethic and legitimacy.

3. Check All Claimed Relationships

If someone says they know investors, ask to speak with the investors. If someone claims they are buddies with celebrities, ask to speak with the celebrities. If someone is selling you that they can help you in some way, check it out and wait for proof first. Overall, the world is full of salespeople and hype machines, so be careful not to believe anything until they work hard to prove it is true.

4. Don’t Value Previous Work

Founding unicorns, throwing huge events, raising lots of money, etc. holds no weight in the present. The home runs of yesterday do not win the games of today. Make sure any previous success stemmed from innate skills, connections, values, etc. that the person holds. Too often people get lucky and find themselves in success, but cannot recreate such success.  Many founders of some of the largest institutions in the world now find themselves poor and failing, because everything they did before was more luck and they struggle at replicating the value.

5. Get Recommendations

There are plenty of fish in the sea. If you have not interacted with someone, chances are a connection of yours has.  If you want to figure out if someone is a fish or a shark, talk to your friends and gauge feedback. Almost all investors will require a vote-of-confidence from a trusted companion. You should use a similar standard for yourself.

6. Hire Slow, Fire Fast

Too many times people will jump into a business venture with someone they just met. This will almost always turn out poorly. Wait until you know someone inside and out and a have deep understanding and trust for their thought process and experience. This is the only way to avoid frauds. A good rule of thumb, is to take a vacation with someone, because at that point you know someone enough to work with them and can guess how your personalities will mesh.

Conversely, if you smell a single whiff of illegitimacy or just don’t think things are working, then you need to cut it off immediately. Waiting to terminate the relationship will only extend the damage.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

George Beall is a student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has a deep admiration for true innovation and has been involved in multiple in technology startups. He is currently on the founding team of Everipedia and an angel investor in Waves Inc. In his spare time he enjoys horseback riding, discovering upcoming music, and binge watching Netflix.

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