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Fraudulent E-mail Thieves Intend to Steal Your Personal Information
The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.
HOW THE SCAM WORKS
Crooks are continuing to unleash fraudulent e-mail scams at a ferocious pace. Many of these are designed to trick consumers into parting with their valuable personal or financial information. For information on current e-mail scams, the Attorney General recommends visiting websites that track phishing frauds and provide informational updates for consumers, such as www.antiphishing.org.
This type of scam, often referred to as "phishing" or "carding," begins with e-mails that are carefully constructed to look like legitimate messages from familiar businesses or government offices. The crooks lurking behind these messages often weave plausible stories related to customer-service or security needs, which direct consumers to click on hyperlinks contained in the messages to clear up the purported problem. But the links lead the unsuspecting victims to phony imitations of legitimate websites, often hosted by a Web servers in foreign countries, where victims are induced to relinquish valuable personal information in order to "verify" or "confirm" their account information. In an effort to distract consumers, scammers often conclude the interaction by redirecting unwitting site visitors to a legitimate website.
And so begins a series of fraudulent transactions perpetrated by identity thieves in the victim's name.
One prevalent type of phishing scam starts with a fraudulent e-mail from popular online merchants, such as eBay or PayPal. The e-mail looks almost exactly like a typical order confirmation message, which businesses commonly send to consumers who recently made a purchase online. Scammers often put an order number in the subject line of the e-mail in order to lure consumers into opening the message. Not only is responding to the e-mail dangerous, but even the mere act of opening the message can unleash a dangerous virus or "spyware" onto your computer.
DO NOT PROVIDE PERSONAL INFORMATION TO SOMEONE WHO CALLS OR E-MAILS YOU
Regardless of whom they claim to be, people who call or e-mail you seeking personal or financial information should be treated as potential thieves who may be trying to steal your identity. Resist their alarming or believable scenarios and urge to update, validate, or confirm sensitive information. Do NOT provide people who call or e-mail you with any personal information. Remember, identity thieves are crafty, and they may be attempting to contact you numerous times using a different alias for each e-mail.
Victims of phishing may become victims of identity theft. Tips for minimizing your risk and other information related to ID theft are outlined in the Attorney General's Consumer Alert, "Identity Theft Information for Michigan Consumers" (available at: http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-164-17337_20942-230557--,00.html.
If you believe you've been scammed out of money in a phishing scheme, visit the FTC's at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft and file a complaint with the FTC (visit https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/ to get started).
If an identity thief opens credit accounts in your name, these new accounts may appear on your credit report. You may catch an incident early if you order a free copy of your credit report periodically from any of the three major credit bureaus. Read the Attorney General's Consumer Alert, "Free Annual Credit Reports-What Consumers Should Know" (available at http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,1607,7-164-34739_20942-111010--,00.html) or visit www.annualcreditreport.com for details on ordering your free annual credit reports.
FILE A COMPLAINT
If you encounter a company that insists you are responsible for a debt incurred without your authorization as a result of identity theft, you may contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at:
Consumer Protection Division
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