February 10, 2005 9:02 AM PST

Vigilantes launch attack on scam sites

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Internet vigilantes have launched a 48-hour bandwidth attack against spammers who allegedly defraud people online.

The 419 Flash Mob, supported by Artists Against 419, has declared war on criminals who host fake bank Web sites in the hope of luring victims to deposit money there. The attacks began Wednesday.

According to Artists Against 419's Web site, "This flash mob is in celebration of Chinese New Year...Our aim is to shut down eight fake bank web sites in less than 48 hours!"

The criminals who operate so-called 419 scams, also known as advance fee fraud, send out e-mails, letters and faxes asking for help to recover a large sum of money from a bank, in return for a share of the loot. Some of these scammers have now graduated to running their own fake banking Web sites.

The 419 Flash Mob is attempting to recruit as many people as possible to launch denial-of-service attacks on spammers' bandwidth and report them to their Web hosts and to legal authorities. The Web site provides contact details of computer crime units in seven countries.

Web sites with the following banks names are being attacked: Abbey Trust & Offshore Bank; First Global Trust; Allied Trust Bank UK (which is listed twice because two separate Web sites use this name); Crystal Bonds & Securities; Kash Bank Corp.; Liberty Stronghold Securities and Finance; and BBVA Finance & Clearinghouse.

Most of these sites are hosted by one service provider in China which could not be contacted by phone, but Crystal Bonds & Securities appeared to be hosted in the United Kingdom. A call to Crystal Bonds & Securities' switchboard was answered by a man who initially said he represented Crystal Bonds & Securities. He then claimed to know nothing about the organization, but was interested to hear more about Artists Against 419 and the group's denial-of-service attacks.

Dan Ilett of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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