April 1, 2012 in Business

BBB: Don’t let harmful email make you an April fool

Eleanor Katzele
A change at BBB

Eleanor Katzele has succeeded Jan Quintrall as president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana. Katzele will write a column about once a month to appear in this space.

She began at the BBB almost five years ago after working six years in corporate banking.

Katzele said, “Like many younger folks, I didn’t know that we’re not a government agency or that we don’t receive grants to support all the great work we do for this community. I didn’t know that we proactively educate consumers about smart buying decisions, help businesses navigate through potential complaint issues, or teach business ethics to high school students.”

The BBB turns 100 years old this year, and the organization is renewing its mission of helping consumers find and recommend businesses, brands and charities they can trust.

“I see the coming year filled with opportunities to create partnerships, spread the word of the BBB, and to rededicate our service to the marketplace with renewed fervor,” Katzele said.

Katzele is married with two toddlers, 14 months apart. She describes herself as a theatrical and creative artist at heart, an avid outdoors and animal enthusiast, and a passionate business professional.

The BBB office is at 152 S. Jefferson St., Suite 200, in downtown Spokane. The phone number is (509) 455-4200. The website is spokane.bbb.org.

Ed Cushman, owner of C&H Foreign Auto, opened his email one morning to find a complaint from the Better Business Bureau.

Little did Ed know that this message would end up costing his business – because it was a scam. With many priorities demanding his attention, Ed – a BBB board member – had missed the warning that the real BBB had issued about these fake BBB complaints.

He clicked the link and lost his entire hard drive. Not a fun joke – on April Fools’ Day or any day.

Like many busy people, Ed simply missed one of the few urgent emails he receives during a normal day’s avalanche of digital information.

His advice: When you get an email that causes you to feel panicked or gives a quick call to action, stop, take a breath and read the message line again. Follow your instincts. Pick up the phone to verify the information. Once you know it is a phishing email, forward it to the Internet Crime Reporting Center at www.ic3.gov/complaint. You also may want to inform the business or organization purported to have sent you the message.

At the BBB, I open my inbox to hundreds of messages every morning. I could spend the entire day on it but would get nothing else done. We would simply tread water on an ocean of email.

The quantity of communications isn’t likely to decrease on its own, so here are some actions you can take for quality control, so that you don’t suffer an April Fools’ prank like Ed:

• Don’t open email from senders you don’t recognize. If your business involves regular legitimate messages from strangers, be more cautious when opening. Check that the body text makes sense and watch for a multitude of typos, awkward grammar or weird characters.

• Ensure that your strong firewall is up to date and that you have antivirus software on your computer system. This saves time because it can automatically catch harmful emails without you having to waste a second looking at them.

• If you have an IT company providing service, find out what they have in place and if they immediately block the items that should be blocked.

• Slow down. Take five minutes to breathe deeply, clear your head and scan your email. Always ask, “Does this make sense? Does the address seem real? Why would I receive this message?”

• Don’t click links in emails you have questions about. Use a search engine to quote from the email you received to see if anyone says it’s a scam.

• Stay informed about potential scams. The BBB lists current scams on Facebook, Twitter and our website. We also email our Accredited Businesses scam notifications affecting their areas or industries.

The fake BBB email is a reminder to be cautious, as with any notification claiming to be from a well-known organization, such as the IRS, Microsoft or the FBI. A legitimate email from the BBB serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana will come from an address that ends in “@spokane.bbb.org.” You will never receive a complaint from a BBB outside where your business is located.

Not sure? Pick up the phone and call the BBB at a telephone number you know is legit, not one in a suspicious email. We’ll let you know if it’s a scam.

One more thing: At the BBB I receive a daily log listing all email blocked the previous night. I can skim it quickly to see if I recognize any. I would much prefer the filter catch a few good emails than let a potentially harmful one through. As you learn of good email that your firewall is blocking, you can adjust your settings to let it in.

Don’t have an IT company? Find a list of trustworthy computer service vendors at www.bbb.org. They’ll be happy to help you figure out what you need to ensure you’re protected.

With all this in mind, as I start my day today I’ll take my “morning cup of coffee moment” to consciously scan email with a clear head. I will make sure I’m opening it with a clear mind. I don’t want to be an April Fool — any day of the year.

Eleanor Katzele is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana. She can be reached at ekatzele@spokane.bbb.org.

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