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eCard scammer avoids jail

Phishing scam targeted AOL subscribers

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A US fraudster who used fake electronic greetings cards to spread malware has avoided a jail sentence for his crimes.

Thomas Taylor of West Haven, Connecticut, was sentenced to four years of probation for his part in a malware-powered ID theft scam targeting AOL users. He was further ordered to pay $33,714 in restitution to victims of the scheme.

Taylor also agreed to serve 200 hours of community service during his probation, the first seven months of which will see him confined to home, a DoJ statement explains.

For four years up until September 2006, Taylor and his associates used malware to trick AOL users into handing over sensitive financial information.

AOL members were first spammed with electronic greeting cards purporting to come via either Hallmark.com and Bluemountain.com. In reality these cards contained a malware payload. This Trojan horse software prevented AOL customers from logging into accounts before entering banking account details, social security numbers and other personal information into a bogus websites under the control of hackers.

The data was used to make fake ATM cards, which were subsequentally used to cash out accounts and buy easy-shift merchandise including gaming consoles, laptops and gift cards.

Taylor's sentencing follows a September 2006 guilty plea to fraud and identity theft offences. The mastermind of the scam, Michael Dolan, was sentenced to 84 months' imprisonment in August 2008. ®

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