Get a referral or reference. Do your research.
Do not just get someone off the street or the internet. Ask your friends and family if they know anyone who provides the services or products you are looking for. If possible, take a look at the work they did for yourself. If you have to turn to the Yellow Pages or Google, make sure you do your research. There are many websites that provide reviews such as yelp.com, yahoo.com, ebay.com, and the Better Business Bureau. (See the links at the bottom of this guide). Though you may ask for a reference from the business itself, keep in mind that it may be biased as it is the business selecting the reference and it may be difficult to verify. I would advise to research a vendor or provider regardless of how you learned about it.
Do not be afraid to ask questions. Research beforehand.
Sometimes we need to hire a provider for a service that we have no idea about. For example, if your car is having a problem and you need to go to a mechanic, learn beforehand the basics of a car's function in relation to your problem. The internet has a plethora of resources on everything. Also, use your friends as resources. Before entering into an agreement with a business, do not be shy from asking questions. Ask how the work is going to be done, the process, the risks, length of time, and whatever is relevant. This will give the provider the sense that you understand what is going on and also gives you insight as to the provider's knowledge and ability to perform the job.
Have something in writing.
It does not have to be a long-winded contract. It can be an Email, an invoice, or even a signature approving a plan. This clarifies the duties of all parties so there is no confusion. Additionally, in the event that the matter is brought to litigation, the important facts are documented. If the relationship is going to be a long term one or involves large amounts of money or services, it is best to have a formal contract.
Check up on the work in the process.
The law pays attention to the victim's actions as well. The law will hold it against victims if they did not do their own due diligence. If there was an opportunity that you could have caught the scam or mediated the losses but you did not, it does not look good. More pressingly, you could be avoiding the litigation altogether if you did your due diligence. For that reason, pay attention and monitor any service-related transactions.
Avoid paying cash.
If a business only takes cash, that might be a red flag in and of itself. When you pay cash, there is less recourse in the event you are a victim of a scam and scammers know that. If you pay by check or credit, this allows the opportunity for you to involve your bank to cancel the check or dispute the credit card transaction. Paying with check or credit card also leaves a trail. In the event that the matter goes to litigation and a cash transaction was involved, the opposing party could easily deny that the transaction ever took place. On the other hand, if there was a check or credit involved, there is proof of the transaction. If it is an online transaction, go through a trusted method such as Paypal. Avoid Western Union as they do not provide recourse in the event of a scam.
Don't make exceptions.
"He's my best friend." "He's my cousin." "He's a well respected figure in the community." Don't let your relationship with people cloud the importance of taking the above precautions. I've seen "best friends" and even family members take advantage of their loved ones and those who trust them. Kindly explain that, as a rule, this is how you do business. You can be diplomatic and state that you like to avoid the possibility of even a misunderstanding and in case of such an event, all parties are protected.