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Man Imprisoned for Scamming with Bogus Hurricane Katrina Aid Site

A man from Miami was sentenced imprisonment for nine months in Pittsburgh for creating and operating a fake Hurricane Katrina relief Website in addition to other Websites that try to collect sensitive information by tricking potential donors.

Jovany Desir, 22, admitted his involvement in wire fraud in the Pittsburgh Court in January. Federal prosecutors said that Desir was sentenced after being detained in home for three months.

Between July and October 2005, Desir was known to create fraudulent Websites that he sold later. These sites were designed for phishing activities that tricked consumers into believing they were on the true Websites of banking institutions.

Phishing is a method of e-mail fraud in which legitimate-looking e-mails are sent out by perpetrator attempting to collect financial and personal data from recipients of the messages. Typically, these messages seem to arrive from popular and trusted Websites. Phishers who spoof such Websites often do it with eBay, PayPal, Yahoo, MSN, America Online and BestBuy.

Desir, who charged $150 for each phishing site, approached the would-be scammers, authorities said. The scammers then used those sites to gather visitors' names, addresses, bank account and credit card numbers, PIN numbers, passwords and similar sensitive information.

According to authorities, the fraudulent effort for hurricane relief was associated with an American Red Cross chapter in Western Pennsylvania, and one other rogue site imitated the site of PNC Bank, based in Pittsburgh.

Desir also forged sites for PayPal, eBay, and two Canadian financial institutions Desjardins Credit Union and Banque Nationale.

According to prosecutors, approximately 56 people visited the Katrina relief Website, while 8,500 visits were made to the bogus, Banque Nationale site. They said that they were not aware of anyone's information being used illegally. However, considering the number of visits, it is possible that some users were entrapped.

Also, reports were issued about widespread scamming during the weeks following Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans and areas of the Gulf Coast. In September 2007, the US FBI warned that over 50% of the Hurricane Katrina aid Websites, it had analyzed, were registered outside the US and possibly were fraudulent.

Related article: Man Sues and Wins against ISP for Spamming Mail

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