Wonks R Us

Where Public Policy and Small Business Meet

Caveat Emptor

When a business registers on a government’s procurement website to bid on government projects, all of that information becomes part of the public domain.  It is then perfectly legal for other businesses to either directly harvest that data, or pay the jurisdiction a fee for access to the data.  Every time I have registered any of my businesses, shortly thereafter my mailbox begins to fill up with official-looking ads for fee-based contract listings.

Some of the businesses that solicit me offer a useful service in which they track and sort bid opportunities so that the business owner doesn’t have to. Given the number of places where one needs to look for bid opportunities, there can be great value in being able to outsource the process, as long as their advertisements make it clear that they are a non-governmental entity providing a service.

There is another class whose advertisements look as through they come directly from a jurisdiction’s procurement department. These ads try to create a sense of urgency through false deadlines and false promises of access to bid information before the general public. In order to stay (just barely) on the right side of the law, these mailers often have a very small disclosure somewhere that they are not speaking on behalf of a government procurement entity.  But even when I know that the mailer is an ad, I have often had a hard time finding the disclosures, even when I am looking for them.

Then there are the businesses who offer workshops, seminars and written material to teach people how to access government bidding opportunities.  Once again, some of these businesses offer a valuable service by teaching business people how to navigate through all of the various government procurement sites, how to effectively respond to an RFP and how to become a tier II or tier III provider (Tier I providers are the businesses that secure the full contract, Tier II and Tier III providers are subcontractors to the Tier I supplier). Then there are the scammers that offer great “value” by promising “true wealth” by using “hidden websites” that they will share (for a reasonable fee, of course).

Now that everyone is abuzz with opportunities created by the stimulus package, I have been seeing more scam artists trying to cash in. This blog post was prompted by a workshop I went to (although honestly, I was only able to stand it for about 30 minutes) recently where the speaker was using fear tactics and lies to convince everyone in the room that they only way to stay in business and not end up on food stamps is to purchase their materials.

Once again, there are some very legitimate service providers out there who offer assistance to business people who don’t have time to check every procurement website or need assistance completing an RFP.  But please, read their mailers carefully, especially the fine print.  And if you go to a free workshop where the speaker is making you fearful or making promises that are too good to be true, walk out.

Note: I have not included names or links to any of the scammers websites because I don’t want to drive any traffic or business to them.

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