Jovany Desir, 20, was charged with wire fraud in a five-court indictment handed up Thursday that also accuses him of setting up phony banking, auction and online payment sites with the goal of pilfering account information and passwords from unsuspecting visitors.
According to prosecutors, Desir created and sold the phishing kits for $150 each between July and October 2005, security firm Sophos said in a statement. Some of the kits allowed attackers to create websites asking for Hurricane Katrina donations, while others permitted them to create phony sites resembling PNC Bank, eBay, PayPal and Banque Nationale and Desjardins Credit Unions - two financial institutions in Quebec.
Victims downloaded the bogus Katrina site about 50 times, while the Banque Nationale site received about 8,000 hits, according to published reports.
"Internet scammers have no qualms on feeding on other people's misery in their pursuit of money," Graham Cluley, Sophos' senior technology consultant, said today. "Everyone needs to be on their guard against identity theft and remain alert to the latest internet threats. This isn't the first time that criminals have taken advantage of a natural disaster, and sadly it won't be the last."