Online grifters have a new enemy.
A private-public consortium of fraud fighters -- including the National Fraud Center (NFC), National Coalition for the Prevention of Economic Crime and the National White Collar Crime Center -- announced Monday they have formed the Internet Fraud Council. Its mission: combating online fraud.
Norman Willox Jr., president and CEO of the NFC, said the IFC, whose membership includes government, corporate and law enforcement agencies, represents "a major initiative to curb the growth of Internet fraud, which is growing exponentially." An FBI spokeswoman said that the bureau will advise the IFC.
"It is critical that the private sector, working together with law enforcement, develops mechanisms for protecting consumers and businesses from becoming victims of fraud perpetrated over the Internet," Willox said. "It's actually a place to bring government, industry and consumers together.
"As the rate of Internet fraud increases, so does the need for a private-public partnership to effectively learn, identify and prevent economic crime in the information age."
Keeping tabs on fraud
The nonprofit organization will operate under the direction of the National Coalition for the Prevention of Economic Crime, Willox said. Among its aims are:
Tracking trends and creating forecasts of fraudulent activity.
Developing and publishing new prevention techniques.
Following developments in Internet-related software and hardware.
Reporting on growth and changes to the Internet.
Publishing a resource directory, as well as monthly updates.
Creating and maintaining an Internet fraud library for its members.
Provide training in fraud prevention and detection.
Providing legal and legislative reviews.
Willox said the IFC would spend its first two to three months building up its government and industry membership and setting up a reliable mechanism to gauge Internet fraud. Currently, he said, it is difficult to get an accurate picture of Net fraud figures because statistics are "coming in different shapes and sizes."
However, he said, the explosion in Internet-related complaints received by e-commerce vendors and the Securities and Exchanges Commission shows that online fraud is "climbing." And consumer gullibility is partly to blame for that boom. (See Internet hoax Nets 233 April Fools.)
Willox said many consumers trust what they see on the Internet, and enter into online transactions without research. "It's a medium that has a great deal of credibility," he said. "(But consumers) need to know who they are doing business with. If it's a site you are really concerned about, make some phone calls; do some due diligence."
Lauren Hall, chief technology officer for the Software and Information Industry Association, a 1,400-member trade group, welcomed Monday's announcement.
"Anything that raises consumer awareness about potentially fraudulent activity on the Net ... is a good thing. An informed consumer is a better consumer," Hall told ZDNN.
Hall said the Internet, rather than the companies who are "bad actors," was often unfairly blamed for online fraud. She said education of both consumers and companies was the best way to overcome online fraud.