A “cyber enforcement team” is being set up as part of a £4.3m government investment over three years to tackle internet and e-mail fraud in the UK. The measure comes after efforts to secure convictions under existing measures have spectacularly failed.
“The internet is rapidly transforming the way we shop. It presents massive opportunities for consumers, but unfortunately it also harbours fraudsters who can leave consumers upset and out of pocket,” Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan said in a statement.
Although many Web sites had been closed down, no one has yet been convicted for this type of crime, and some Web sites reappear under a different name within 24 hours. According to trading standards officer John Peerless, who works on a Scambusters team, it is extremely difficult to identify the criminals behind these types of crimes.
“That is why they use the internet. It is so easy to place their server in another country. We are not having as much success as we would like,” Peerless said.
The team, which will be made up of trading standards enforcers in every region of the UK, will use “sophisticated technology to gather evidence to a criminal standard” and will make test purchases from websites that it suspects of acting unlawfully.
By the end of this year, a complaints register where people can notify others of online scams, will be in place.
The funding will also be used to target legitimate companies which fail to offer customers the rights, such as refunds, to which they are entitled when shopping online.
Seatwave, one of Europe’s leading online ticket exchanges, welcomed the government’s decision to step up spending on online fraud.
“Customer security and trust are our top priorities so we are delighted to see that the Government is taking strong action against scam websites that sell counterfeit or non-existent tickets. With so many fans being left out of pocket by illegitimate ticket sites, we hope that the OFT’s plans to fight online criminals will bring confidence to those who do wish to buy tickets online,” Joe Cohen, CEO and Founder of Seatwave, said in a statement.
“When purchasing tickets online we urge fans to make sure they only buy from reputable sites, check for a registered office in the UK and always look for consumer protection guarantees including 100 percent refund if tickets fail to turn up or if an event is cancelled.”
An estimated £3.5bn is lost to all types of scams in the UK each year.