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Florida man indicted over Katrina phishing scam

Hurricane season

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A Florida man has been charged with setting up a phishing website that sought to cash-in on the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Instead of collecting money for victims, Jovany Desir, 20, of Miami, Florida, allegedly tried to trick sympathetic marks into handing over banking details through a bogus American Red Cross website.

Desir is further charged with selling phishing tackle that allowed other ID crooks to establish bogus websites more easily for approximately $150 each.

Desir was indicted over these alleged offences, as well as establishing phoney banking and online payment sites between July and October 2005, by a federal grand jury in Western Pennsylvania, AP reports.

Targets of his alleged scams included PNC Bank in Pittsburgh, eBay, PayPal, and two Canadian financial organisations as well as the Red Cross, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review adds.

Prosecutors allege one of the bogus Canadian banking websites, purportedly representing Banque Nationale, was visited 8,500 times by users apparently searching for the legitimate site. The five-count indictment omits an estimate of how much Desir might have gained through his various alleged scams.

The prosecution is separate to the one against Gary Kraser, a Florida man who was charged with four counts of fraud after receiving $40,000 (£22,700) in donations to fund mercy flights to the victims of Hurricane Katrina he never made.

Net security firm Sophos notes that Hurricane Katrina is far from the first disaster to have captured the imagination of bottom-feeding scammers.

Earlier this year, the FBI warned of a scam website that sought to prey on Good Samaritans seeking to help the sole survivor of a mining accident in Sago, West Virginia to "pay medical bills".

The January 2005 VBSun worm spread via emails posing as a plea for relief money to help victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami just days after disaster struck. If activated, the worm set about harvesting addresses for its further distribution as the infectious attachment of email messages while attempting to launch a denial of service attack on a particular German-based hacker website. ®

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