X
Tech

High-tech conmen left to run amok

High-tech conmen are being left to run amok because there is no centralised body which businesses and consumers can turn to when they are defrauded.
Written by Peter Warren, Contributor

High-tech conmen are being left to run amok because there is no centralised body which businesses and consumers can turn to when they are defrauded.

The lack of a central body means a huge percentage of online crime goes unreported. Leading figures in the UK security forces have admitted to silicon.com that efforts to fight the fraudsters are being severely hampered as a result. In stark contrast to the situation in Europe, the US does have a central body which people can contact about such cases - the Internet Fraud Complaints Center (IFCC). According to a spokeswoman for the IFCC, reporting of web fraud is the biggest problem the organisation faces in fighting internet crime. "The problem with internet fraud is that no single organisation has a firm handle on it. The IFCC is a step in the right direction for this. In its first six months of operation the IFCC received 20,014 complaints," said the spokeswoman. The lack of a similar body in the UK has led to many complaints ending up at the IFCC. New developments such as the National Crime Squad's High-tech Crime Unit - which will officially start work tomorrow - are not expected to provide a proper solution, as its remit will be to deal with the higher end of technology crime, such as large-scale, organised money laundering, hacking and pornography. This leaves those who lose money buying non-existent goods, or investing in sophisticated internet con-tricks, at the mercy of high-tech criminals who are netting huge sums by using the web. The Association for Payment Clearing Services, which represents UK credit card companies, has calculated that internet fraud and net theft amounts to at least £7m a year in the UK. But given the problem of chronic under-reporting, the real figure is likely to be far higher. The lack of a single point of contact also means that no one is in a position to reassure businesses and consumers with hard facts about what is and isn't happening online. According to many people working with the problem, those who suffer either do not trust the web again or are scared to be seen as foolish for trusting financial data to the internet. "It's like a lot of crime," said one investigator contacted by silicon.com. "If there is nowhere for you to report what happened, then it did not officially happen." The creation of one easily found point of reference would boost faltering public confidence in ecommerce. And that lack of confidence is something the internet industry believe needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency. One recent survey by security firm UPAQ put fear of fraud is at an all time high, with 95 per cent of web users expecting to be the victims of web crime.
Editorial standards