A handful of Bismarck-Mandan area businesses are reporting a variation on an email scam circulating in the area.

Apparently aimed at business-to-business operations, this scam involves receiving an email that appears to be from a local company.

The email says you are behind on a payment or an account and need to settle up immediately before some type of legal or police action is taken.

You're encouraged to call a telephone number listed in the email (or click a link) to take care of things. The number may appear to be local, but it is certainly not the real business' phone number.

One sneaky version of this scam says it is from a service hired by the business to collect the debt — hence, a different or nonlocal phone number.

Once you call the number, you're asked to either make the payment via a wire transfer or purchase a number of gift cards and send the card information.

Don't.

Never, ever send money and never give out financial or personal information.

Reputable local businesses will not send payment demands via email or allow payment demands to be sent on their behalf via email.

If you're in doubt, look up the business' phone number and call directly about the email. You'll find the business will be just as surprised as you are about the message.

It's easy to find a company's logo online and slap it on a phony email.

These scammers are hoping the familiarity of the business name will prompt you to assume the email is legit.

Don't fall for it.

You can learn more about common scams, digital and real world, at the North Dakota Attorney General's website.

You can also report any scams you believe are targeting you or your business.

Here are some other online sources for good information on common scams — and some types of scams you might not have heard of yet:

Vazlentine origins

Bloody Valentine executions? Bird mating season? The fertility festival Lupercalia?

These items and more appear to figure into the origins and evolution of Valentine's Day,  on Wednesday.

Familiar elements, such as exchanging cards, gifts and affections, have interesting histories. You can learn all about the day of love online at the following websites:

Keith Darnay has worked in the online world for more than two decades. You can reach him at www.darnay.com.

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