International push to fight high-tech scams

With cybercriminals based all over the world, governments must cooperate to clamp down on one of technology's ugly sides - the mass-marketing scam

Representatives of more than 60 law enforcement agencies and regulators from around the world gathered in London on Friday to try and formulate international cooperation against the rising tide of marketing fraud schemes, many of which rely on computers and mobile phones.

The seminar, organised by the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT), is aimed at combating marketing scams such as the 419 fraud; emails that falsely claim the recipient has won a valuable prize and demand a fee in exchange; and text messages that con people into dialling a premium-pay number.

Experts say that there has recently been a large jump in the number of people falling victim to such scams. One reason for this is that technologies such as email and SMS have made it much easier for scammers to send their wares to potential victims.

The e-Crime Congress 2004 heard this week that many cybercriminals are targeting the UK from sites located in Eastern Europe. This global threat needs a global response, the OFT says.

"Increasingly clever tactics are being used by the conmen behind these scams to deceive consumers," warned Christine Wade, director for consumer regulation and enforcement at the OFT.

"A joined-up approach is needed to develop alternative strategies to tackle this growing area of consumer detriment," Wade added.