The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

September 16, 2010
Be suspicious of invoices in e-mail that look official

It's a form of "brandjacking," when a well-known company or consumer product is used by online scammers. Among the latest incidents to pop up: fake invoices for items people didn't order.

In one example we've seen, the official-looking e-mail arrived with details on two supposed electronics orders from, including a $4.49 order for iPad screen protectors. The shipping charge on the tiny order: a whopping $74.98.

Another suspicious tipoff: The supposed e-mail definitely was not from's corporate office.

Although these types of e-mails don't ask for personal financial information, they're considered a type of "phishing," where cyber-criminals send out phony e-mails in hopes of getting you to click on links or provide personal information, such as bank account and Social Security numbers, said Sarah Dalton, spokeswoman for the California Office of Privacy Protection.

"These are 'bad guys' who are attempting to steal from you," Dalton said. "If you have already given out any personal financial information such as your credit card number or password, change the information right away."

Her additional advice:

• Never respond to out-of-the-blue requests for personal financial information. Only give out such information if you initiate the contact.

• Never click on links in those types of "request" e-mails.

• If you think the request is legitimate, contact the company or organization by means other than what is provided. If it's an e-mail supposedly from your financial institution, for instance, use the 800 number from your bank statement or the back of your credit card.

Nat Wood, spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission, recommends that individuals report phony e-mails to the commission at "," so the information is available to law enforcement.

Amazon also allows consumers to report suspicious emails at (Click on "Help").

– Claudia Buck

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About The Public Eye

Welcome to The Bee's newest blog: Public Eye. In the coming months, you will see us breaking news here as well as following up on investigations we have published with tidbits, news breaks and behind-the-scenes descriptions of our news-gathering process. Know of a wrong we could right? Send our fraud squad your tips at:

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