You can count on it, just like clockwork: when a new federal program or interface or system is put in place, someone is going to try to squeeze some extra cash out of people who want to use it.
Here at SBA HQ, we’ve heard recently of attempts to do just that to people who want to register their small businesses in the new SAM database. SAM stands for System for Award Management.
SAM, which is being developed in phases – the first was released in July 2012 – is changing the way you do business by consolidating nine separate and distinct federal systems into one, thus allowing companies to use one login to access all the capabilities previously found in the nine separate legacy systems. Among the systems it’s replacing is the Central Contractor Registration, or CCR, a database where companies that want to do business with the government register.
It wasn’t long before the questions started bubbling up. One of the first was “Does it really cost $599.00 to register for SAM?”
SBA field offices and resource partners – such as the Procurement Assistance Center at the Mohawk Valley Small Business Development Center – started hearing several reports over the past few months that their small business clients were being contacted by firms offering to get them set up in SAM for a fee of $500 to $599.
As Roxanne K. Mutchler, the Government Contracting Coordinator at the Mohawk Valley SBDC pointed out recently to some of these clients: “Please make your current and future clients aware that these are private, for-profit businesses that will charge the client for registering their business. There is no cost to register at the new SAM website! We can assist them with the process for FREE!”
The real SAM website is: https://www.sam.gov/. Always look for the “.gov” after “SAM” in the URL address. Private, for-profit businesses will not have the “.gov” suffix. Even if a site looks a lot like a federal government website, don’t be fooled. Without the .gov ending, it isn’t.
A couple of good places for helpful info about getting into the SAM database are the User’s Guide issued by the General Services Administration, and the SAM FAQ. Both of these are in a PDF format, so you can download them easily to your own desktop. You can access many more online aids at the SAM website by clicking on the “Help” button and “User Guides.”
One caution: Some people have been unable to reach the new SAM site. Mohawk Valley’s Mutchler recommends changing one computer setting: In your Internet Explorer browser, go to “Tools” then “Internet Options” then “Advanced” and put a check mark at “Use TLS 1.0” (it’s down near the bottom).
Another caution: Don’t get sucked into paying for something that’s free, and for which you can get free help from a Small Business Development Center in your area. Find one here. All you need is a zip code.