Small Business Crimes and Scams - Free Enterprise
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A handful of California business owners were dealt a legal loss in federal court this week on their class-action Yelp extortion lawsuit.

A veterinary hospital, a dentist, an auto-body shop owner, and a furniture restoration store owner had joined in a class action suit against Yelp, claiming the online service had violated California's unfair business practices law and had extorted them, reports Courthouse News Service. The business owners claimed that Yelp manipulated the appearance of positive or negative reviews in order to pressure the employers into purchasing advertising through its site.

Why did their Yelp extortion suit flop in federal court?

High-end retailer Barneys New York has agreed to pay $525,000 to settle complaints that it racially profiled black and Latino customers at its flagship New York City location.

The settlement follows a nine-month investigation by the New York Attorney General's office that found a "disproportionate number of black and Latino customers being detained for alleged shoplifting or credit card fraud," reports The New York Times. Critics labeled the practice "shop and frisk."

What spurred the investigation, and what should your business' policy be for detaining customers suspected of shoplifting?

Have you heard about the declined debit card override scam? If not, a recent case involving a young Florida man offers an eye-opening lesson for business owners.

Investigators say the man was able to make more than $300,000 in fraudulent purchases from Apple stores across the country, using a simple scam that's somewhat ingenious. Sharron Laverne Parrish Jr., 24, allegedly made 42 purchases at Apple stores in 16 states by using a declined debit card override scam known as the "forced code" or "forced sale" scam, reports Business Insider.

How does the scam work, and what can you do to avoid being victimized by it?

A handful of businesses have begun receiving "notices of extortion" demanding that the owners pay the senders in Bitcoin to avoid bad online reviews.

For some reason, the scam seems to be targeting pizzerias around the United States, including Manchester, New Hampshire-based 900 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria. General Manager Michelle Doucette told the New Hampshire Business Review she thought it was a joke and had to ask what a Bitcoin was.

Whether or not you've received a similar extortion letter, here are three things business owners should know:

The heart-breaking story of a 3-year-old girl with severe facial scars being kicked out of a KFC may be a hoax, according to the restaurant chain. But the girl's family insists the story is real.

As you may recall, the girl was mauled by a pit bull and suffered facial injuries including the loss of one eye; she was allegedly asked to leave a KFC in Jackson, Mississippi, because her injuries were scaring customers. The story went viral and led to more than $135,000 in online donations for the girl's recovery, including a $30,000 pledge from KFC.

But as the Laurel Leader-Call reports, two investigations by KFC failed to confirm the family's story.

Hoax or not, here are three lessons that your business can learn from the controversy:

A company called Corporate Records Service is drawing the ire of consumer protection watchdogs in several states for mailing deceptive solicitations to businesses that officials say are intended to resemble government documents.

Indiana's Director of Consumer Protections calls it a "scam." As she told Lexington, Kentucky's WKYT-TV, Indiana is one of nearly a dozen states to be hit by Corporate Records Service's document deception.

What should small business owners look out for?

It's National Police Week in the United States. And though no business owner ever wants to have to call the police because they've been a victim of a crime -- especially a crime as serious as armed robbery -- it's a good idea to know what do if you are.

As a few recent incidents have shown, some business owners and employees choose to take matters into their own hands when confronted by armed robbers. But that's typically not what law-enforcement experts recommend.

Here are 10 tips for what you should do during and after an armed robbery, as suggested by police departments across America:

A newly discovered security flaw called "Heartbleed" has many businesses scrambling to beef up their online security.

The Heartbleed flaw affects websites that use a security software called OpenSSL to protect users' data and passwords. As The Washington Post explains, sites vulnerable to the flaw are like doors with defective locks. No matter how much consumers change their passwords, if the "lock" is broken, user data is vulnerable.

So what does your business need to know about the Heartbleed flaw?

Business owners beware: A website domain-name registration scam is catching some entrepreneurs off-guard.

But the BBB says it's easy to protect yourself from this scam, once you know how to spot it.

How can business owners avoid buying domain names from scammers?

Is It Legal to Bet on the Oscars at Work?

Are you and your colleagues thinking about throwing down some cash by the water cooler to bet on the Oscars?

You might think placing a bet on "12 Years a Slave" for "Best Picture" would be a nice way to cheer on an excellent frontrunner, liven up your work day, and make a few extra bucks.

But is it actually legal to bet on the Oscars at work?