Nothing is more frustrating than when someone else uses your good name without your permission in a way that's contrary to what you believe.
Whether it's your cousin playing a prank by pledging large sums of money to a charity in your name or someone you don't know using your credit card to fund his trip to the Caribbean, setting things right can be an arduous and infuriating process.
This year, it seems that scammers have latched on to Better Business Bureau's good name to con business owners into giving up personal information or installing malware on their computers.
An email has been circulating for months claiming that BBB received a complaint and offering a handy link to view said complaint.
Here's what one local businessman forwarded to me last month:
Here with the Better Business Bureau would like to inform you that we have received a complaint (ID 1587521597) from a customer of yours in regard to their dealership with you.
Please open the COMPLAINT REPORT attached to this email (open with Internet Explorer/Firefox) to view the details on this issue and suggest us about your position as soon as possible.
We hope to hear from you shortly.
Regards, Sharie Hale
Better Business Bureau"
BBB has gotten calls from business owners nationwide about similar messages. I have personally talked to several local business owners, a number of individuals and one representative of a government agency, all of whom were suspicious of the message they had received.
Just to set the record straight, I want you to know that legitimate complaints will not come from a bbb.org address, and these messages are completely fraudulent.
If you receive one, do not click on any of the provided links and forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have clicked on the link, immediately do a virus scan.
The same advice applies anytime you receive an unsolicited email or phone call asking you to provide personal information, give money or download anything on your computer.
Scammers have contacted their victims pretending to be banks, family members and even the IRS, FBI or other law enforcement agencies.
If you are worried that the fines, debts or threats might be the real deal, always remember to go "off the call (or email)." Find the person, business or agency's phone number on your own and make contact directly.
Richard Kitterman is executive director for the Better Business Bureau of Central and South Central Texas.