The much criticised US Federal Bureau of Investigation claimed a victory in its ongoing battle against cyber fraud on Wednesday when it said it had brought charges against some 90 individuals and companies.
The FBI's Operation Cyber Loss exposed fraud schemes affecting more than 56,000 victims who suffered cumulative losses in excess of $117m.
News of the FBI's anti-fraud success was a welcome public relations win for the Bureau, which has been under heavy criticism since it was revealed that it had kept thousands of documents relating to the Oklahoma bombing from Timothy McVeigh's defence team.
Earlier this week, US Government watchdog the General Accounting Office criticised the internet security alerts issued by the FBI's cyber security division as being, in the main, too late to be effective.
The FBI characterises internet fraud as a scam that uses a web component, such as an online auction, to offer non-existent goods and services. Among the other schemes uncovered by the FBI were the systemic non-delivery of internet purchases, and credit card, bank and investment fraud.
Most of the crimes were reported by the public to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC), a website established last year by the FBI, and the National White Collar Crime Center.
US Attorney General John Ashcroft called the IFCC a "cyber community watch" programme and likened it to neighbourhood watch schemes where people keep an eye out for burglars and the like.
"When individual citizens, businesses and consumer agencies work with law enforcement at all levels, we help ensure the safety and security of the internet," he said.
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