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AG Cooper warns against ID thieves preying on holiday shoppers

Release date: 11/29/2004


Scammers pretend to be financial institutions seeking to verify your personal information


Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper warned today about a spate of identity theft scams that are making the rounds over the Internet. He asked that consumers be especially vigilant about these Grinches and their schemes during the busy holiday shopping season.


“Identity thieves work overtime during the holidays,” said Cooper. “These con artists are the most active when our wallets are out. They pretend to be from legitimate banks and businesses to trick distracted holiday shoppers into giving up their personal information and their hard-earned money.”


Some of the more recent identity theft scams to plague North Carolina consumers involve emails from people who claim to represent credit card companies and financial institutions such as Fleet Bank (now Bank of America), BB&T, Smith Barney, or even the online auction site eBay. The emails, which usually include logos that mirror the real company’s symbol, request that you submit your credit card or bank account information via e-mail for “verification.” Many of these emails claim that the company is upgrading its software or updating its records and needs you to provide certain personal information. Other emails may threaten that your credit card will be terminated unless you provide certain personal information quickly. In reality, the con artists are seeking the information in order to spend your money and threaten your credit.


These emails are called “phishing,” an online form of deceiving people into giving up their personal information. Consumers who receive an email or a telemarketing call similar to these recent identity theft scams should not respond. Instead, consumers should report them to the business that is implicated in the email, Cooper said. For example, if you receive a suspicious message that claims to come from Smith Barney, let them know by calling 1-800-221-3636 or forward the suspicious e-mail to . Bank of America requests you call 1-800-432-1000 or forward the email to to report similar identity theft issues.


Cooper also encouraged consumers who plan to shop online or order items from catalogs this holiday season to find out about a company’s privacy policy before sharing any personal information. If the business doesn’t have a policy or you aren’t comfortable with the way they may use your personal information, take your business elsewhere.


More information about identity theft and tips for consumers are available at .


“You keep your wallet in a safe place when you shop at local stores. It is just as important to keep an eye on personal information when you shop on the web, by telephone or by mail order,” cautioned Cooper. “Be sure you know who you’re dealing with and why they need the information before you share any of your important financial information.”