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BBB warns local business owners of prolific phishing scam

TACOMA, Wash. – Hundreds of local business owners have been the target of scammers this week.

According to the Better Business Bureau, someone has sent emails claiming to represent the nonprofit organization, but the message is really phishing for sensitive information. The phony email instructs business owners to respond to a complaint by clicking on a website link. But, the BBB says that link could be bad news for you and your computer.

At Bennett Industries in Tacoma, more than a dozen employees work on widgets and sprockets that somehow find their way into our lives.

“We’re actually working on parts for the new Space Needle renovation coming up,” said general manager David Riddle, “It’s kind of an awesome kind of thing to work on.”

But it was an email Riddle got this week that really grinds his gears.

“It’s extortion, and they do that with businesses pretty easily because they can scare some business owners and managers,” he said.

But the BBB says the email Riddle got early this week is a fake.

Riddle’s email had scary language, claiming his company violated the ‘fair labor standards act’ and the letter claimed to be from the BBB itself – except it wasn’t.

“It does say BBB on there,” said Riddle. “And so you think, is it really that?”

The BBB said Riddle, and hundreds of other business owners in the Pacific Northwest, also got similar emails.

“The BBB Scam Tracker showed about nearly 300 reports about this BBB phishing email,” said BBB spokesperson Veronica Craker. “Those are just the people that have reported to us, there are probably plenty of people out there that never said anything.”

But the BBB said the exact goal of the scammers is not clear.

“There’s a good chance you could be downloading a virus to your computer, you could be giving someone access to your computer and your system,” said Craker.

Both Riddle and the BBB warn the phishing scam isn’t just for business owners, anybody can get duped by a fake email.

The bottom line here, the BBB says, is that you should never click on a link in an email if you’re not sure who it came from.

“I think everybody needs to know about it, and I think that’s a good thing for other business managers and owners to know about it,” said Riddle. “It is out there and be careful when you do get something so it doesn’t happen to you or me.”

The BBB says if you think you received a phishing email, you can protect yourself in three easy steps.

One, never click on a link sent to you from a stranger. Two, delete the email and don’t forget to empty the email’s trash folder. And third, run a full computer scan with your antivirus software.