Scammers 'Donate' to Katrina Relief Effort
The audacity of Internet scam artists never ceases to amaze me. Over the weekend I was lurking on a few obscure online chat channels dedicated to credit card fraud, collecting information for a story I'm working on about identity theft. In such forums, it is not at all uncommon to see fraudsters posting personal and financial details of their phishing victims as enticements to would-be buyers of larger stores of such information. In January, I wrote extensively about this type of activity in a series on the technology driving the spread of phishing scams.
At one point in my monitoring of the chat conversations, however, it became clear that several fraudsters fancied themselves modern-day Robin Hoods; at least two individuals on the chat channel began posting copies of receipts they had garnered for donating to the American Red Cross's Hurricane Katrina relief fund - using their victims' credit card and billing addresses. Following a posting that contained a female victim's name, address, credit card number (referred to merely as "cc" in the following snipped conversation), came the notice that the scammers had donated $250 with this woman's account, and another amount using the Visa card of a Chicago man. (The names of the scammers have been changed for readbility and because the non-standard characters in them messed up the HTML formatting of this page).
[01:24] lowlife: lolz...love to donate with ripppp cc;s
[01:25] lamer: yea man
[01:25] sleazeball: :D
[01:25] lamer: its good especially with katrina and all now
[01:25] lowlife: yah//// i would have donated more
[01:25] lowlife: but no $$ left in the cc
[01:25] sleazeball: lolz
[01:26] lowlife: yeh i guess :) feeling so good
[01:26] lowlife: i am a very good person
[01:26] lowlife: :P
I forwarded the information I found to the Red Cross, which is investigating to see if they could match that conversation to an actual donation.
I find these illegal "donations" reprehensible and offensive on so many levels. Theft is theft, and when discovered, the fake donations have the potential to generate anger and frustration, and ultimately besmirch all of the good work the Red Cross and other organizations are doing to help Katrina's victims. In all likelihood, the unauthorized charges will be reversed after considerable back and forth between the people whose credit card info. was stolen, the credit card companies and the Red Cross.
UPDATE, 6:30 p.m., ET: Since this post went live, I've heard from two other people I contacted whose credit card information also was posted on that chat channel. One individual from Tennessee came home to find my message on his answering machine, directly followed by one left by his bank calling him to report suspicious charges on his account. Among those charges was a $50 donation to Islamic Relief, which has launched a $2 million appeal for Hurrican Katrina victims. Another guy, a 25-year-old Marine from Alabama, returned my call to say that he also had an unauthorized $56 charge to Islamic Relief on his account.
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