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Wednesday, 23 September 2009 06:30

ACCC to lead global Internet 'sweep' to round up scammers

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The ACCC is to lead the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network's (IPCEN) annual sweep of the Internet to uncover and disrupt fraudulent website.

ICPEN is made up of consumer protection authorities from 42 countries and its main objective is to take action to prevent and redress deceptive marketing practices with an international component. This year the ACCC took up the leadership of the network. The Internet sweep was first held in 1997 has become an annual event on the network calendar.

ICPEN president and acting ACCC chairman, Peter Kell, said: "This year's event is focusing on so called 'crisis scams' that exploit consumer concerns about financial downturns. "When people are in financial hardship they may be more likely to take a chance on a scheme that promises to help them out of a bind, whether it relates to employment, easy money, or fixing a health problem. However, scammers will take their money regardless of their personal circumstances."

He added: "As Internet fraud moves beyond international boundaries, so too must consumer protection agencies. The annual sweep enables consumer protection agencies to collaborate in the fight against these frauds."

Participating agencies around the world will use a set of predetermined search terms (for example business opportunity, guaranteed profit, unclaimed money) to come up with a list of websites to check.

"By the end of the sweep thousands of websites will be inspected and suspicious sites will be flagged for further investigation and follow-up action," Kell said. "As a result of the sweep the agencies aim to disrupt the activities of scammers."

Last year 21 consumer protection enforcement agencies earmarked more than 37,000 websites and 18,000 spam messages for analysis and further investigation. "Cross-border cooperation can and does bring about results," Kell said. "Recently the ACCC worked with US counterparts to get refunds for consumers misled by a website claiming to sell designer brands. This year the ACCC has also been successful in going through the courts to take down a series of misleading websites selling medical eBooks."

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