The Better Business Bureau in Fresno was recently used in a ploy to send a phishing attack as part of a scam, where an email was fraudulently made to appear to be sent by CEO Blair Looney.
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
Following a phishing attack involving the Better Business Bureau Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties office in Fresno, the organization has offered advise on how to spot a scam and on how businesses can protect their clients.
The Bureau’s human resources department noticed the phishing incident, which occurred last month. Kayleena Speakman, the communication specialist for the Better Business Bureau in Fresno, said that a scammer sent an email while posing as their CEO Blair Looney. The email, however, was met with suspicion, prompting Looney to investigate.
“We sent the alert out as soon as possible, it got picked up by some other outlets to let the public know that these are coming in,” Speakman said. “These emails can affect anyone and everyone, so you just need to be very, very careful.”
Following this incident, the Better Business Bureau has not only sent out notifications, but hopes to alert businesses and customers alike to signs that they might be falling into a scam as well.
“Anyone can be targeted — scammers do not have a preference with who they target,” Speakman said. “They send these to anyone and everyone and their hope, really, is for someone to respond and give them what they’re after. So you can’t think: ‘This will never happen to me,’ because it will.”
“A bad fisherman, if persistent, will catch a fish,” said Fresno County Sheriff’s Det. Larry “Skip” Swain.
Though millennials are now more likely to fall victim to a scheme, according to the Federal Trade Commission, Swain, who specializes in elder abuse, said that senior citizens are a favorite among scammers. One of the larger ones to hit the elderly are false notifications stating that the victim has won the lottery and requesting funds to attain their winnings.
“They prey upon the elderly because they are very trusting folks, from when business used to be done with a handshake and a smile,” Swain said. “Then, not only are they trusting, but some of them are shut-ins, some of them are lonely and when these folks call them for information, they are eager to talk to somebody and they will give them information.”
Scammers will often seek to add a sense of legitimacy by posing as a well-known company or organization. Common businesses and groups used include Amazon, Publisher’s Clearing House, the Yellow Pages and even the Better Business Bureau. In the case of a fake lottery scheme, the con will involve the perpetrator sending multiple emails pretending to be from the Bureau, Publishers Clearing House, the IRS and others.
“And that’s what scammers do a lot — they use reputable companies that you would otherwise trust regardless,” Speakman said. “So that’s why you, as a business owner, as a consumer, need to do your job and do your research and figure out if this is a scam before you just fall for it. “
There are, however, signs that consumers and business can use to spot a con. For example, with fake lotteries, scammers will commonly send out forms with multiple entities on them. The scammer might also use the same rubber stamp when posing as each agency and company, showing that they came from the same sender.
One of the biggest indicators, Speakman stated, is whenever intimidation against the target is used.
“If the email is asking to send something ASAP, or ‘don’t tell anyone, or ‘keep it a secret, or they’re pressuring me to do it immediately, that is a huge red flag,” Speakman said. “Scammers pry on scare tactics and doing things as soon as possible before people really have time to think it through and then catch them on it.”
Businesses whose names are being used for scams also have the ability to send out warnings and even engage in public awareness. For example, the Western Union Co. has been highly active in educating potential victims against scams.
Speakman cautioned as well that without being informed by their own customers, businesses can only do so much to protect the pubic.
“If someone receives an email from Amazon or eBay and it’s fake, report it to Amazon and eBay right away, so they can alert their shoppers that this is going on,” she said. “Ultimately, if the consumer doesn’t let the business know, the business has no idea.”