If I had dug a little deeper, I would have seen the truth.

When I first met Chris, I felt a real kinship. He was accomplished, had a strong following and had the successes that I had been struggling to achieve. Not only did he understand marketing, manage a team of virtual assistants and run ads at scale, but he was also earning hundreds of thousands of dollars every month.

Related: It’s Time to Talk About Startup Scam Artists

After close to a year of being friends and exchanging life-changing insights on business, Chris told me about a business idea he’d recently used. He relayed to me the big success he had with doing a unique competition with another company, and he encouraged me to jump into it, too. Since I’d known Chris for a decent amount of time, I trusted him.

Excited and ready to make a killing in business, I paid over $12,000 to hire a company Chris swore was gold. Little did I know, Chris was taking half of the money I was handing over, and this company had a history of underperforming.

Once Chris was paid, he up and vanished. Poof — he was gone. My messages were ignored. My friend, the person I’d been regularly talking with, somehow became too busy to respond.

Related: 6 Warning Signs You May Be Dealing With an SEO Scam Artist

Chris taught me some hard lessons, and now I’d like to pass on this cautionary advice to you, so you can avoid being ripped off by friends, associates or anyone else in your sphere.

Don’t blindly trust friends.

The most significant mistake I made? I trusted the word of someone else without doing my research. Chris was a smooth-talking guy who had the patience of a snake waiting in the bushes. Had I done my research before trusting someone I thought was a friend, I wouldn’t have been duped out of my money.

As a former student of the monkhood, it’s hard for me to admit not everyone is a good person. This practice of befriending someone and later exploiting them is more common than any entrepreneur would like to admit. As Robert Greene states in his book The 48 Laws of Power, we should never put too much trust in so-called friends. Sadly, just because you consider someone a friend, it doesn’t mean he or she will treat you kindly in business.

Foe or friend, before you hire anyone — do your research to ensure you’re making the best choice.

Related: Why It’s Nearly Impossible To Stop This Amazon and eBay Scheme

For quality assurance, record your calls.

The company I hired took my money, and its sales team collected nearly multiple five figures from our new clients. In one of our calls, I asked them when I would get paid money they collected from my clients. Their response: “Sorry, we spent it. Our business is now defunct, and we’re not sure we’ll be able to pay you.”

When the vendor’s team openly admitted in our call to spending all the money they collected from my clients, I called them out. I responded, “You do know this call was recorded and you’ve openly admitted that you essentially stole all of my money?”

Somehow, the vendor found some loose change and paid a few thousand dollars right on the spot, and agreed to make monthly deposits until its debt was paid off. Had I not recorded those calls, I would have been caught without recourse and potentially costly litigation fees with a company based overseas.

To ethically and legally record your business meetings with anyone, be sure to check out this article.

Related: 3 Business Lessons You Don’t Want to Learn the Hard Way

Successful people aren’t always the best advisors.

Our heroes aren’t always the people we believe them to be. When taking advice, don’t just consider how successful the person is. Take a look at how many people he or she has led to the promised land and how many people have been left disappointed.

If I had researched Chris, I would have seen that I am not the first disgruntled friend in his rearview mirror. Unfortunately, I only looked at the appearance of things and not the hard facts that were spread throughout the internet. If you want to hire people, take a moment to review their past to assure they’re someone you’ll want to work with.

Never be a victim — take responsibility.

When I think about Chris, I am not mad at him. In fact, I’m thankful he taught me early about some of the most fundamental elements of business, such as how friendship and business are not always the same. I fully acknowledge I allowed the circumstances to happen and I am also powerful enough to create new outcomes. He was there to teach me, and with that, I am more aptly able to identify the “Chrises” of the world.

Take responsibility for what you create, and you’ll never really be ripped off. Instead, you’ll be given life lessons that make you more successful in business.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/312945