Fraudulent Email Seeks to Capture Consumer Information

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Thousands of consumers apparently received an unauthorized and deceptive e-mail from Best Buy, entitled "Fraud Alert," on June 18, 2003. Using concern about a purchase from Best Buy and possible credit card misuse as bait, the fraudulent e-mail message urged recipients to go to a special Web site and correct the problem by entering their Social Security and credit card numbers.

Best Buy officials say the company did not send the message. The company is working with appropriate law enforcement authorities, including the Federal Trade Commission, the nation's consumer protection agency, to resolve the situation. In addition, the company is reporting that none of their systems have been compromised, and their online business is secure.

FTC officials caution that consumers who replied to the fraudulent email by providing any credit card or bank account information should contact their credit card company and/or bank immediately and cancel those accounts. Consumers who provided their social security number should contact one of the three national consumer reporting agencies, ask to place a fraud alert on their account and obtain a copy of their consumer report. Contact information is available at or by calling the FTC's Identity Theft Helpline, 1-877-ID-THEFT.

How can you tell if a "Fraud Alert" from a company is itself a fraud? FTC investigators say one way is to check with the company before you respond to any Web site that asks you to enter personal identifying information. Another is to check for misspellings and grammatical errors. Silly mistakes and sloppy copy - for example, an area code that doesn't match an address - often are giveaways that the site is a scam.

If you have questions about the Best Buy incident, call Best Buy Customer Care at 1-888-BEST-BUY or visit For more information about spam, visit the FTC's Web site at

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1 877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

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