ORLANDO, Fla. - An Orange County woman claims a Best Buy computer repair turned into an identity theft nightmare, and she only survived it thanks to the honesty of a total stranger.
Action 9's Todd Ulrich investigates how her personal information disappeared from the store and what risks many customers might face when getting computers and smartphones repaired.
Sura Alani needed her laptop fixed and turned to the geek squad at a local Best Buy. She picked up her repaired computer and never thought about it again until 10 weeks later when a total stranger called her.
“I mean, it was very, very, scary," she said.
Alani said the man knew her name, cellphone number and much more. Turns out he had gone to the same Best Buy and bought a flash drive that had been discounted as an open box item.
Alani said she couldn’t believe everything he had found.
“All my photos, all my documents, and everything that had been on my laptop," she said.
That included a copy of her passport, Social Security number and bank accounts.
Alani found out a tech had backed up her laptop data onto that drive so nothing could be lost during the repair. But then somebody messed up and the flash drive was not erased but sold.
Alani was lucky the stranger was going to fully cooperate.
“He said I could get it back if we could meet the next day," she said.
Best Buy is rated A-plus by the Better Business Bureau for responding to 7,900 complaints nationwide. On its return policy, the company warns customers to remove all personal data first.
Security experts Action 9 talked to said that's critical advice for any electronic repairs and the best protection involves securing financial information first.
“You don’t have to password protect all your information but health care information, personal information, all that should be password protected,” said Brian Killian with Northpoint Technology.
Best Buy told Ulrich it's not entirely clear what happened but
it's determined to make sure customers privacy is always protected and it’s offered to pay for Alani
“I never expected anything like that to happen,” said Alani.
She said the man who bought the flash drive from Best Buy, sold it back to her at cost.