Updated The UK government has launched a specialist cyber-enforcement team and allocated extra funding for Trading Standards as part of a campaign designed to clamp down on online scams.
OFT figures suggest online scams claim 3 million UK marks every year and result in losses of £3.5bn. Approaches most often arrive in the form of scam emails.
The government is investing £4.3m over three years in a bid to clamp down on this growing source of crime. The money will allow the training and appointment of specialist trading standards enforcers in every region of England and in Scotland and Wales and the establishment of local computer labs.
Online ticket scams and scam websites that offer goods but deliver nothing in return will be main focus for the new teams. The OFT teams will target the most serious cyber-scams. Cases will continue to be passed to the police, Serious and Organised Crime Agency and other investigative agencies. The role of the OFT can loosely be compared to that of the US Federal Trade Commission though, of course, the OFT's budget and resources are far less.
Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan said: "Our investment will help the OFT and Trading Standards to put in place the new specialist teams, training and technology required to take the fight to these criminals."
An OFT spokesman explained told us that teams and remits were in the process of getting set up adding that numbers of staff were been "finalised". While the initial focus will be on scam websites and ticket fraud it is possible the agency may get involved in investigating cases of auction fraud, one of the most prevalent types of cybercrime, over time.
The Government recently established the Action Fraud, run by the National Fraud Authority, and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, which will be run through the City of London Police and will tackle the most serious and harmful fraud. Meanwhile the recently established Police Central eCrime Unit within the Metropolitan Police will tackle large-scale internet crime, including internet–enabled fraud. The OFT team is focused on dealing with consumer reports of cyber-crimes which might otherwise slip through the net.
Victims of fraud are advised to contact Consumer Direct on 08454 040506 or visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk. Consumer Direct can provide advice and pass on complaints to the appropriate agency, such as the OFT. ®