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International Network Sweeps the Internet for Fast Money

12. April 2004

The crackdown on internet scams continues as the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network targets websites that are 'Too Good to be True' as part of the International Internet Sweep. Over the next three days 24 ICPEN consumer protection agencies will probe the internet to uncover shonky websites which mislead consumers.

International network sweeps the Internet for fast money

The crackdown on internet scams continues, as the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network targets websites that are 'Too Good to be True' as part of the International Internet Sweep. Over the next three days 24 ICPEN consumer protection agencies will probe the internet to uncover shonky websites which mislead consumers.

The consumer protection agencies are scrutinising websites which make claims which are 'Too Good to be True', such as get rich quick schemes, work at home schemes, and 'free' offers. The lure of quick, easy money and opportunities to work from home entice consumers into such schemes. Common pitfalls include start up fees, added costs, and grossly exaggerated earning potential, often resulting in thousands of dollars lost after being poured into internet scams.

Agencies in many countries will be gathering in Sweep rooms in a massive coordinated effort. The International Internet Sweep is just one example of consumer protection agencies working to together to combat cyber scams. ICPEN* is a network of consumer protection authorities of 31 countries. Its main objective is to take action to prevent and redress deceptive marketing practices with an international component. The network fosters cooperative efforts by member authorities to tackle consumer problems connected with cross-border transactions in both goods and services. Exchange of information between authorities also plays a key role in effective investigations and court action where necessary.

'Internet fraud is on the rise. The internet is prime territory for scammers around the globe who seek to take advantage of international boundaries to avoid detection' says Hagen Jørgensen, the Consumer Ombudsman. 'Fraudsters are increasingly using the internet to try and make a fast dollar and take advantage of vulnerable consumers'.

'Cross border cooperation is essential to combat these types of scams' says the Consumer Ombudsman. 'Enforcement agencies are increasingly working together to combat internet fraud, where scammers exploit the international nature of the internet'.

If it looks to good to be true, it probably is. Here are some tips from ICPEN agencies to avoid getting caught:

  • Avoid promises of instant wealth, 'free' gifts, incredible discounts and bargains;
  • Read all the terms and conditions and fine print;
  • Be very wary of testimonials claiming astounding results;
  • Ask around, get professional advice; and
  • Research the business: do an internet search on the name of the product/company, verify any contact and company details. (See the Shopping Assistant on www.econsumer.gov)

Consumers who believe they have been a victim of deceptive practices on the Internet can register their complaint at www.econsumer.gov, the ICPEN's global online complaint mechanism. 17 member countries have access to this mechanism for the purposes of monitoring online conduct and taking enforcement actions where possible.

* Formerly the IMSN - International Marketing Supervision Network.  A decision was taken by the Network during the Australian Presidency to change its name to closer reflect its Consumer Protection role and Enforcement activities.  Hence, the new name International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network.

ICPEN members:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, EU, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea (Republic of), Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, OECD, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA

Contacts:

International:

Anja Peltonen, ICPEN President                                                                                              ph: +358 9 7726 7804

                                                                                                                                                 Fax: +358 9 7726 7557

Carl Buik, Director E-commerce, ACCC                                                                                 ph: +61 2 62431066

                                                                                                                                                 Fax: +61 2 6243 1078

Tanja Wieland, ICPEN Sweep Coordinator                                                                             ph: +61 2 6243 1197

                                                                                                                                                Fax: +61 2 6243

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