MY OFFICE HAS FIELDED many inquiries
from consumers asking about business
offers, mortgage payoff offers, and credit
card offers they receive over the Internet.
Seeking independent information about
an unknown company is a wise move,
particularly when the business contacts
you through unsolicited e-mails... spam.
Spam is one of the most aggravating
problems facing consumers on the Internet
today. While the Internet is a tremendous
resource for consumers, it is also a vehicle
for rampant fraud. As technology evolves,
so do the scammers who contrive new
methods of sending millions of unsolicited
e-mails, perpetuating Internet
and committing identity theft against
thousands of Texans every year.
Last month, my offi ce won the state’s
fi rst spam case against Ryan Samuel
Pitylak, a former University of Texas at
Austin student, and his partners Mark
Trotter, Gary Trappler and Alan Refaeli.
The four men ran one of the largest
and most notorious commercial spam
operations in the world, bombarding
consumers with millions of e-mails
under at least 250 assumed names. Using
deceptive subject lines, they tricked
recipients into believing the e-mails
contained information important to them.
Consumers who responded to the e-mails
revealed information about themselves
after being assured their privacy would be
protected. In fact, the defendants sold the
information to other companies who were
free to use the data however they chose.
At best, consumers are hassled online
with straightforward but disruptive
attempts to sell real products or services.
You should proceed with caution when
following up on unsolicited online ad-
vertisements, especially pop-up adver-
tisements. Our Consumer Protection Div-
ision always stresses that just because we
may not have any negative information
about a particular company or business,
that does not mean that it is safe.
Legitimate retailers and businesses who
market over the Internet generally do
not send unsolicited e-mails to advertise