[ISN] Accused AOL phisher spammed the FBI

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Sun Sep 21 2003 - 23:59:20 PDT

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    By Kevin Poulsen
    Posted: 20/09/2003
    An Ohio woman accused in federal court of using mass forged e-mails 
    from "AOL security" to swindle America Online subscribers out of their 
    credit card numbers was allegedly tracked down after spamming exactly 
    the wrong person: an FBI agent specializing in computer fraud, 
    according to court records. 
    Helen Carr pleaded not-guilty last week to a two count federal 
    indictment charging her with conspiring with colleagues in the spam 
    community to send mass e-mails to AOL subscribers purporting to be 
    from "Steve Baldger" from AOL's security department. 
    The messages claimed that AOL's last attempt to bill the recipient's 
    credit card had failed, and included a link to an "AOL Billing Center" 
    webpage, where an online form demanded the user's name, address, 
    credit card number, expiration date, three-digit CCV number and credit 
    card limit. 
    In recent years the so-called "phishing" scams have developed as a 
    popular and annoying technique for fraudsters to swindle people out of 
    everything from PayPal accounts to ATM codes. Despite some publicity 
    surrounding fake e-mails from PayPal, AOL, eBay, CitiBank, Barclays, 
    and other businesses, enough Internet users are still falling for the 
    scam for it remain profitable, says Dan Clements, founder of CardCops, 
    a business that tracks credit card abuse. "People do respond to these, 
    especially when they hit AOL," says Clements. "AOL users are the 
    newbies, so they're way more susceptible to these scams." 
    But an FBI agent in the Norfolk field office was apparently not taken 
    in when he received one of the e-mails in February, 2001. Not the most 
    sophisticated variant on the scam, the message came from 
    "precious44257166@private" and was sent to 19 other AOL users at the 
    same time. The webpage was served by Geocities. "[A] legitimate AOL 
    billing center would not be found at this location," agent Joseph 
    Yuhasz wrote in an affidavit in the case. 
    Yuhasz sent a copy of the webpage to what was then the Special 
    Technologies and Applications Unit of the bureau's National 
    Infrastructure Protection Center, which determined that the site was 
    designed to e-mail its ill-gotten bounty to a particular Yahoo 
     From there, a cooperative Yahoo official and some helpful ISPs led 
    the g-man to homes in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Subsequent raids on
    the homes yielded quick confessions from a professional spammer and a
    credit card thief, both of whom snitched on Carr, naming her as the
    ringleader of the operation, according to the FBI affidavit. A search
    of Carr's Ohio home turned up two computers packed with files relating
    to the scam. Carr allegedly admitted to agents that she had a role in
    the operation.
    It was a lot of crime-busting for a petty scam. But then, Exhibit A 
    was sent right to the FBI's inbox. 
    "Because she's in the U.S., they went after her," says Clements. "The 
    significant portions of these scams come from foreign servers, in 
    which the hackers have root access, so you basically can't track them 
    Trial in the case is set for November. 
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