When you think of extortion, normally gangsters and dark alleys come to mind. But extortion is still a real problem for some small business owners. Find out how this crime works and get tips on protecting yourself.
In 2009, the FBI has issued a warning that small business owners were being targeted by extortionists who threatened them by telephone after gleaning personal information about them from the Internet.
The threats, which the FBI said appeared to be from foreign countries, came in the form of the business owners being led to believe that the extortionists know personal information about them.
Extortion is not limited to business people, and Internet-related extortion is not a new phenomenon. As many small businesses are doing more and more business online, cybercriminals are following the trail.
There have been reported extortion attempts against business people who received emails with their customer information attached. The extortionists demand money or they will expose the information to competitors and the customers themselves, who wouldn’t be happy to discover their business information published on the web.
In some cases, the crimes were committed by hacker-cybercriminals and, in other cases, the crime was committed by a disgruntled and/or dishonest employee.
Law enforcement agencies have also reported cases where cybercriminals have threatened businesses with “Denial of Service” cyberattacks if money was not given over. The cybercrooks are becoming very sophisticated, and their threats also include disruption of online services by crashing the business person’s website by bombarding the site with data packets of emails or web requests.
Of course, some extortionists prefer the old-fashioned way. Police in Omaha arrested a 19-year-old man who had been accused of extortion at several businesses in the central part of the city.
Store owners told a local TV news station that the man barged into their stores and demanded they pay money for protection. Businesses that refused to pay the young criminal ended up with smashed windows.
The man was charged with six counts of attempted extortion and one count of making terroristic threats.
Extortion has traditionally been committed by organized crime. The crime organizations have used extortion of businesses as a steady source of income for years, especially restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
With violent street gangs on the rise, law enforcement has warned of drug gangs also getting into the act. Gangs claim sections of neighborhoods as their territory, and they demand extortion payments from local businesses.
If you are being extorted, contact the police. While it’s true the police can’t protect you all the time, it’s also true that extortionists are insatiable. They will keep coming back for payment after payment.
Join and work with police, business, and neighborhood associations. By being an active member of a local association, you’ll be kept abreast of local criminal activity, including extortion.
Extortion should not be a cost of doing business. It’s a crime.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.