Grand Jury Indicts Hurricane Katrina Phisher

Federal law officers say the suspect packaged his fake sites and sold the kit to other criminals.
A 20-year-old Florida man was accused Thursday by a federal grand jury of using several bogus sites playing off Hurricane Katrina to get charity givers to give up confidential financial information.

Jovany Desir of Miami was indicted on five wire fraud charges for creating a bogus Red Cross site, and others that purported to be from eBay, PayPal, the Pittsburgh, Penn.-based PNC Bank, and two Canadian financial firms, Banque Nationale and Desjardins Credit Union. Using standard phishing scams, he enticed users to the sites with e-mail, then asked them to divulge bank and credit card account information.

Immediately after Hurricane Katrina struck the American Gulf Coast last summer, phishers began planting fake Web sites in the hopes of siphoning off some of the millions who were eager to contribute money to relief organizations. Bogus Red Cross sites, for example, appeared within days of Katrina hitting New Orleans.

Desir's Red Cross site allegedly asked for Katrina donations paid by credit card.

Federal prosecutors also said that Desir had packaged his fake sites and sold the kit to other criminals for $150. "Internet scammers have no qualms on feeding on other people's misery," noted Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, in a statements. "[Prosecutors] claim that 56 different people downloaded Desir's Hurricane Katrina phishing kit, presumably with the intention of conning good Samaritans out of money.

"Everyone needs to be on their guard against identity theft and remain alert to the latest threats. This isn't the first time that criminals have taken advantage of a natural disaster, and sadly it won't be the last," Cluley said.

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