Consumer Watchdogs Join Forces to Hunt Down Cyberscams

Consumer protection agencies from around the world will join forces over the next two days in an international assault on scams in cyberspace.

The annual International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network's (ICPEN) internet sweep, coordinated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, will aim to uncover scams that use spam and the internet to entrap unwitting victims.

The ACCC will lead the simultaneous sweep involving 76 agencies from 25 countries including participants from the London Action Plan, an informal international network for spam enforcers.

The ACCC's Deputy Chair, Louise Sylvan, said cooperation with overseas counterparts and other Australian agencies was essential to combat the spread of fraudulent and deceptive scams online.

"Scammers have evolved with technology and will pretend to be either people in need or legitimate organisations. Scams will prey on aspirations to be desirable, rich, clever and compassionate".

Joining the ACCC will also be 'sweepers' from the Australian Communications Authority, the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Office of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading, Tasmania, Consumer Affairs Victoria, The Office of Consumer & Business Affairs, South Australia and NSW Office of Fair Trading.

Ms Sylvan said the Sweep Day will culminate ACCC's involvement in the ICPEN's Scam Awareness Month (ScAM).

"Consumers are still being caught out and the month long focus on scams aims to arm consumers with the knowledge and skills to recognise, report and stop scams".

The watchdog warns consumers to watch out for promises of instant wealth, lottery wins, quick-fix diets; cheap loans and other 'free' gifts. and avoid handing over your personal details.

Consumers should protect their computers by using up to date software, and installing firewalls and spam filters, but most simply, the golden rule is to never click on the links. the ACCC says.

Australian consumers can report scams by calling the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502, filling out a complaints form at the ACCC's slam-a-cyberscam webpage or registering an overseas scam at www.econsumer.gov.

22 February, 2005

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