AOL is using the long net of the law to snag three "phishing gangs" from the wild.
The internet service provider (ISP) filed three civil suits against unnamed phishers in Alexandria, Va., federal court for the state's Eastern District.
The lawsuits are the first time a major ISP has cited the state's anti-phishing statute, which was adopted last July. The suits also cite numerous federal laws and seek damage awards of $18 million, AOL said in a Tuesday statement.
Curtis Lu, senior vice president and depute general counsel for AOL, noted that phishers continue to become more sophisticated.
"At AOL, we are using every legal and technical means at our disposal to drive phishers from the AOL service, not only to protect our members, but to make the internet a better, safer place for all consumers," he said. "The phishers targeted in our lawsuits spoof a variety of prominent internet brands, including AOL. We are going to play our part in protecting the sanctity and integrity of the email experience of the web – and today's actions are a part of our ongoing, successful and comprehensive anti-spam and anti-identity theft work."
The suits allege that the phishing gangs used fake emails - designed to look like AOL notifications - to trick users into visiting fake websites. Once there, the phishers would attempt to steal users' personal information, AOL alleged.
Recent statistics released by the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) saw an increase of more than 6,000 unique phishing reports from December 2004 to a year later.
A Sophos survey released last week said that 58 percent of business email users receive at least one phishing email a day, while 22 percent said they receive more than five a day.