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ACCC leads crackdown on internet scams -

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ACCC leads crackdown on internet scams

Sue Lannin reported this story on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 12:38:00

ELEANOR HALL: Australia's consumer watchdog is leading an international crackdown on internet
scams.

The ACCC says the scams are costing Australian consumers one billion dollars a year and that
criminals are using the global financial crisis to lure people in.

The deputy chairman of the ACCC, Peter Kell, will lead the international probe and he's been
speaking to Sue Lannin.

PETER KELL: Fraudulent websites are becoming increasingly widespread as more and more people use
the internet.

The ACCC, we had a 60 percent increase in the number of consumer scams reported to us last year,
and the vast majority of these were online.

SUE LANNIN: Now what sort of scams are we talking about?

PETER KELL: We're talking about a very wide variety of scams here.

It might be fake websites that have been setup to steal people's money or indeed their personal
identity. Some of these websites can look very professional.

We're talking about emails that can be sent to people to try and tempt them again to either give
over money or to click on links that may download malicious software on to their computer.

These days we're talking about a very wide variety of scams, some of them linked to international
organised crime groups, so they can be very professional indeed.

This year our internet sweep is focusing on scams that are seeking to exploit people's concerns
about the global financial crisis or other economic pressures.

We've already seen some of these scams in the past few months, emails that have gone out to people,
supposedly being from the Tax Office or from Centrelink.

SUE LANNIN: How much money do people lose on average?

PETER KELL: The Australian Bureau of Statistics did a survey recently on the amount of money that
consumers were losing to scams.

They estimate that around a billion dollars every year is lost and the growth area is obviously
online scams.

SUE LANNIN: Now this will be an international operation. How will it work?

PETER KELL: This internet sweep is undertaken through the international consumer protection
enforcement network, that's a network of consumer protection agencies around the world.

There'll be around 40 countries participating in the internet sweep. If there are sites that are
identified where we can seek to cooperate with agencies in other jurisdictions to shut them down
then we'll do so.

Increasingly this sort of activity does require a coordinated international response.

SUE LANNIN: It is a big ask though isn't it? There are thousands and thousands of websites
targeting consumers. How do you stop them from scamming people?

PETER KELL: Look, there's no doubt we're never going to be able to stop this activity entirely,
there will always be these sort of scammers out there.

What we want to be able to do however is to disrupt their activity as far as possible and to alert
consumers to the sorts of common themes you see in these scams, no matter where they're coming
from.

The sorts of attempts to portray guaranteed investment returns or easy money or easy cures for
significant health problems.

There are consistent tricks and techniques used by the scammers and if consumers are alert to those
then they'll generally be safe in their online transactions.

ELEANOR HALL: Peter Kell is the deputy chairman of the ACCC he was speaking there with Sue Lannin.