One of the biggest reasons given by small businesses for remaining cautious about trading worldwide is a nervousness about the potential risks involved in doing deals with companies half way round the world.

Whilst most firms are legitimate, it’s an unfortunate fact that a small minority of companies are running scams so it is vital that you take all the necessary steps to protect yourself.

It is important to do what you can to make sure the organisation you’re dealing with is genuine before you send them any money and there are a number of ways to do this. For a start, you can undertake a variety of checks to make sure the company is legitimate.

Reverse-telephone look-ups can be a good way to start and it is sound practice to avoid companies that only use mobile numbers or free email addresses as their primary contact information, due to their disposable nature.

You can also ask the company for bank information or business certificates and in addition request the details of some of their other clients so you can get recommendations and references. You could also get in touch with your embassy in the country you’re dealing with as they should have access to a list of registered businesses.

Business accreditations can also offer peace of mind. Currently, there are a number of internationally recognised accreditations that companies can obtain to demonstrate that they are trustworthy and follow a set code of conduct, both in house and when working with customers.

ISO 9001 is one such recognition. This is an indicator of good quality management and those who earn this accreditation have shown that they provide consistent products that meet customer expectations.

Even though you might have developed a good working relationship during the buying process, I recommend that you take steps to protect yourself when it comes to paying for and accepting payment for the goods. Never send money direct to the supplier. An escrow system will keep the funds safe whilst you check that the goods are what you are expecting.

If you are happy, the funds are then released direct to the supplier and if there are any disputes the money can be refunded once the goods have been returned. An escrow system can also offer protection to UK suppliers, ensuring that the buyer has made the necessary funds available before the shipment is sent.

Most of all, don’t forget to trust your own judgement and instinct. If something doesn’t seem right about the company, it probably isn’t. Do more research, or find another firm that you can trust.