Businesses Fear “Bitcoin Extortion,” But BBB Ratings Are Safe From This New Threat

  
     
Security blogger Brian Krebs says virtual currency makes it easier for scammers, while Better Business Bureau reassures businesses.
July 02, 2014

Arlington, VA (July 2, 2014) – Noted security blogger Brian Krebs posted that 2014 will go down as the year that “extortion attacks went mainstream,” and pointed to a series of blackmail letters targeting small retailers and restaurants. The letters, boldly labeled “Notice of Extortion,” threaten negative publicity, harassment, bomb threats, and complaints to the Better Business Bureau if the recipients don’t pay up by August with a bitcoin, the virtual online currency that is nearly impossible to trace.

“It’s a bit flattering that the extortionists singled out BBB, but their threat is completely worthless,” said Mary E. Power, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “The first thing BBB does when we get a complaint is share it with the business and verify that the complainant is a real customer. If they are a customer, we help the business and the consumer work it out. If they are not a customer, we don’t accept the complaint and it has no bearing at all on the business’s BBB rating.”

The extortion letters also threaten negative online reviews, which some BBBs offer. “BBB also scrutinizes customer reviews,” said Power. “BBB doesn’t publish reviews until we have verified the reviewer. Businesses should feel assured that these extortionists will not be able to make good on their threats involving BBB complaints or reviews.”

Krebs speculates that the long lead time for the blackmail is due to the fact that many people don’t yet know what a bitcoin is or how to acquire one (the extortion letter provides instructions). He also thinks virtual currency, which can be cashed anywhere, has made it easier for scam artists to operate locally since they can collect the payment anonymously. He notes that the less-traceable Bitcoin is replacing wire service transfer as the payment method of choice for scammers.

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2013, people turned to BBB more than 132 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 112 local, independent BBBs across North America, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. 

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BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles and BBB Wise Giving Reports®, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is a difference in viewpoints. For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org.   Better Business Bureau Serving West Florida is one of many local, independent BBBs across North America that provide business reviews on companies within its 11 county service area.  These counties include: Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Hardee, Desoto, Charlotte, Lee & Collier. 

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