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Business License Scams: A Barrier for Reentrants

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It can be hard for a person starting over in life to earn a living — especially if he or she is reentering society from prison. That’s one reason why many reentrants decide to use the trade skills they’ve learned to go into business for themselves.

But local consumer protection agencies have told the FTC about scammers who lie about being able to help people get professional or business licenses to start barbershops, hair salons, auto repair shops and other businesses. These con artists contact people in different ways and some say they issue licenses themselves. Many reentrants don’t believe they will ever get a business license through the usual channels. That makes them vulnerable to scams.

Some reentrants may find themselves frustrated by occupational licensing regulations that don’t make sense. Maybe their trade is licensed in some states, but not others. That’s confusing.

If you’re looking to get a professional or business license, here are three things you should do before you pay anyone money:

  1. Check with your state or local government first to learn how to get a professional or business license. The requirements and fees depend on the type of business you’re starting, where it will be, what services you will offer, and government rules. Also, the Council of State Governments’ Collateral Consequences database provides detailed information on licensing restrictions based on your record and the type of license you’re seeking.
  2. If a company says it can issue you a professional or business license, check it out first. Typically, government agencies issue professional and business licenses. Contact the agency that oversees licensing for your trade to see if the company is legitimate. You also can search online using the company’s name and the term “scam.”
  3. Visit the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website for information on licensing and starting a small business.

If you spot a situation where professional licensing doesn’t make sense, let us know. Sometimes, excessive occupational licensing is an unnecessary barrier to jobs, entrepreneurship, and economic opportunity – and doesn’t really protect public health and safety. The FTC’s Economic Liberty Task Force is studying these issues, and would love to hear your story.

For more information on scams targeting entrepreneurs, go to For more information relevant to reentrants, visit And if you know about a business scam, tell the FTC online or at 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money


very timely info.Pleasekeep it going Thx

I would like to know how to get in contact with ftc

If you spotted a scam, you can report it to to the FTC at The information you give will go into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

The comments you put here on the blog don't go into the law enforcement database.

202-752-5593 is a scam saying you've won a 9,200 grant from the government.

Thank you for alerting us to potential scams.

Yeah! Reporting any scam activities that comes your way is the best method to deal with 419, I love your write-up

Get these calls almost every week, and never ever been in any trouble all my life" not sure why they're calling me, offering these services?

I sent money via Western Union in December. I never got loan they promised from Quicken Loans in New York. I reported it to the ftc. I also bought Stream and iTunes ($100 and $200 respectively. I never received the $7,000 loan or the grant (supposedly from the Federal Government). I also reported it to the fec and a local sheriff.

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