In response to the challenges posed by cross-border internet fraud, the US and 12 countries, including the UK and Norway, have joined forces to fight international consumer fraud over the web.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which will lead the programme, said the project is comprised of two components: a multilingual public website (www.econsumer.gov); and a password protected website for government use.
The public site will provide general information about consumer protection, contact information for consumer protection authorities and an online complaints form. All information will be available in English, Spanish, French and German.
The project is being undertaken by the US, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. Noticeably absent are representatives from countries such as Japan, France and Germany.
All incoming complaints will be entered into the FTC's existing Consumer Sentinel network (www.consumer.gov/sentinel), an automated database of consumer complaints and other investigatory information. The FTC will maintain control over the public website and data, and will host and maintain the site.
FTC commissioner Mozelle Thompson said the project gives participating countries access to real-time, current information about what's happening in the way of fraud around the world. "It will essentially provide a foundation for agency action," said Thompson.
Under the agreement, law enforcement agencies in each country will have access to the database through a single, password protected website, the agency said. Each participating agency will share information filed to the site among each other and with law enforcement officials in the participating countries.
Thompson added: "We're seeing enough cross-border fraud to know that this will be a very helpful tool. It will send a clear message to those unscrupulous parts of the public that they cannot hide from us just because we're on different sides of a border."
According to the FTC, the number of online fraud complaints it received increased from 22,009 in 1999 to 25,469 last year. The FTC does not know what portion of the complaints involved international transactions.
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