Over the past several months, small business owners have been receiving emails warning that their companies are being investigated for fraudulent or suspicious actions. Reportedly, these messages are a part of a widespread Better Business Bureau complaint scam aimed at stealing user identities. Before you open any message that appears to be from the BBB, learn what to watch out for.

How the Complaint Scam Works

According to the Better Business Bureau, scammers are using the organization's names to frighten business owners into clicking on links that point to phishing websites which infest computers and steal important personal data. Many of these emails warn the user that his or her company is under investigation, thanks to a supposedly high volume of complaints regarding a host of issues, including fraud and other illegal activities. Unfortunately, once users see these messages, they tend to panic before thinking things through; and, since the emails usually include the BBB's logo, people tend to click the outgoing links without questioning the message's authenticity.

When phishing programs infect a computer, they allow remote users to gather personal data, which can be used to access bank accounts and secure fraudulent loans. They can also lead to identity theft, which can result in catastrophic financial problems that may take years to repair.

The BBB Issues Recommendations

Federal law enforcement agencies are working to quell the prevalence of phishing emails; however, since many of these schemes originate in other countries, regulators aren't likely to have significant success.

To avoid falling victim to a Better Business Bureau complaint scam, small business owners should know how to spot potentially fraudulent emails. According to the BBB, before clicking on any message, users should consider the following:

  • Watch for awkward phrasing, grammatical inconsistencies, errors and typos
  • Check to be sure the email came from either @bureaudata.com or @greatermd.bbb.org.
  • Hover your mouse arrow over the outgoing link prior to clicking it to see if it actually leads to bbb.org
  • Delete messages that include attachments; this is a strong sign that the message is a phishing scheme.

Additionally, the organization advises users that all BBB emails will originate with their local office and will never come from the organization's council or from a branch located in a different state.

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