| Kerry: Business model
Washington, Aug. 4: Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s campaign has asked the US department of justice to investigate an Internet website in India, which has been collecting and pocketing money from unsuspecting American voters by misusing Kerry’s name.
Kerry’s spokesman Phil Singer confirmed to the media that a complaint had been made to the justice department and that the campaign was on the watch for such scams.
The fraud came to light when SurfControl, a UK-based e-mail filtering service, detected mass e-mails on August 1 with the subject line, “President John Kerry: please vote and contribute.”
The online donation forms on the site solicited credit card numbers and other personal details from contributors that are typically used for credit card frauds. The fake Kerry site used for fraud in this case has been traced to Jaipur. As of today, it has been shut down.
The site was found to be fake and traced because under US electoral law, a candidate cannot accept political donations after the formal nomination at the party’s national convention if the candidate agrees to fund the remainder of the campaign with government money and matching funds from the party.
Obviously, the scam artists in Jaipur did not know US electoral law and they continued to solicit donations in Kerry’s name even after the Democratic National Convention in Boston, which concluded last Thursday. It is widely believed that the Indian site, which was strikingly similar to Kerry’s official site — www.johnkerry.com — may have duped a huge number of Kerry supporters before his party’s convention.
Both Kerry and President George W. Bush have agreed to use government money for their campaigns after accepting their respective party nominations. Bush is still raising funds because the Republican National Convention is taking place only at the end of August.
SurfControl, which detected the fraud, said in a press release that “the start of the (American) presidential campaign election season has given rise to a new form of online fraud”. Kerry has raised five times as much money as any previous Democratic candidate, a large share of it through the Internet.
Ordinary Americans, angered by the policies of Bush, have been making Internet contributions as little as $20 to Kerry’s campaign. Judging by this record, the scamsters in Jaipur may have already netted a huge windfall through their fake website.
The donation forms on this site were hosted at the address — http://testhost.yahoogoogle.biz/JohnKerry/contribute.html — which was reached by clicking through its home page — www.yahoogoogle.biz — to find out how Kerry supporters could make contributions.
SurfControl similarly detected another fake Kerry website registered in the name of a woman in New Braunfels, Texas, and had it shut down.
Susan Larson, vice-president of SurfControl, said in the press release that “these websites are gone already, but we expect to see a lot more of this electronic election fraud. Scam artists are masters of leveraging timely events to exploit the unwary. People excited by a new candidate are more likely to volunteer confidential information like e-mail addresses and credit card numbers. These are increasingly sophisticated crimes that require a sophisticated defence”.
In the modern world of computers and the Internet, stealing credit card numbers and other identity information with the use of e-mail to lure people to fraudulent websites is known as “phishing”.
Computer industry estimates that 57 million Americans have received phishing scam e-mails between January and May this year, mostly from criminal sites operating from the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe. The Kerry spoof suggests that India with its huge manpower resources in computer technology is catching up.