In much the same way that web scammers immediately tried to exploit the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina, sending out fake charity e-mails that led to phishing sites and so forth, the same is now happening in the wake of Hurricane Rita, with related Web domain names, and Rita-themed Internet auctions springing up. Some 40 or so websites have been closed since it was discovered that they falsely claimed to raise money for relief organizations.

Tom Liston, a security consultant with Washington-based and an incident handler with the SANS Internet Storm Center, began tracking new Web site registrations containing the word "Rita" on Monday and as of yesterday had found more than 1,100 such sites, he said.

On Thursday, someone used eBay to begin auctioning off a burnt piece of toast with the meteorological symbol for a hurricane and the word "Rita" scraped onto it, promising to donate 40 percent of the final auction price to storm victims. EBay shut down the auction later that day.