Remember those extortion letters a number of businesses began receiving a few weeks ago? The Better Business Bureau has come out to say “don’t worry” about the whole thing.
And just in case you’re not briefed on the matter, a number of business owners received letters with an explicit threat: pay up or horrible things will happen to your business.
The blackmail letters read:
You business, BUSINESS NAME, has been targeted for extortion. The selection process is random, and was not triggered by any event under your control.
Should you fail to pay the one-time monetary tribute, by the deadline provided below, your business will be severely and irreparably damaged.
The letter threatened business owners that they could receive harassing telephone calls, vandalism, mercury contamination, false reports of tax evasion, money laundering, health code violations, and even methamphetamine production if they didn’t pay one bitcoin to an address specified on the letter.
One other threat provided was complaints to the Better Business Bureau, an agency that keeps records of complaints toward businesses with the end goal of having those complaints resolved. Often times, consumers will consult a business’s rating with the Better Business Bureau before giving them their business, and as such, a bad rating could mean less business.
“It’s a bit flattering that the extortionists singled out BBB, but their threat is completely worthless,” 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 to leave businesses who don’t pay with negative online reviews.
“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.”
Cases in which these extortion letters have been distributed are minimal, but businesses can take comfort in knowing they are at least protected on one front if they become an unlucky recipient.