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'Phisher' Goes to Jail

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May 19, 2004 10:06 AM PDT    Text size: 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A man who sent misleading emails to consumers pretending to represent the billing departments for AOL and PayPal was sentenced to nearly four years in prison, Assistant Attorney General Christopher A. Wray announced Wednesday.

Zachary Keith Hill, of Houston, was found guilty of running a "phishing" scam to defraud consumers of personal financial information via spam email. Hill pleaded guilty to two felony charges, which included stolen credit card information and intent to defraud consumers of more than $50,000, the FBI said.

Phishing is a practise of posing as a legitimate business in order to glean personal indentification information from computer users for purposes of identity theft.

In this case, Hill used bogus email headers from AOL and PayPal to alert consumers to billing errors and threaten to cancel their accounts if they didn't respond to the email and update their account information.

The supplied link would then take users to a fake billing center with the AOL logo. From that point Hill acquired the social security numbers, birth dates, bank and credit card numbers, and AOL screen names and passwords, the FBI said. Hill used a similar scheme to pose as the billing department for PayPal.

Based on the information Hill acquired, he was able to access 473 credit cards.

Hill was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore in the Southern District of Texas in Houston.

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