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Government invests £4.3m in crackdown on cybercrime

Warwick Ashford

The government is to invest £4.3m to fight criminals who use e-mails and websites to con UK consumers out of £3.5bn a year.

Some 73% of adults in the UK received a scam e-mail and three million consumers were victims of online scams in the past year, according to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The money will be invested over three years in an OFT specialist cyber enforcement team to fight online crime and restore consumer confidence in online shopping. Some of the money will also be used to provide funding for Trading Standards.

The government's Digital Britain Report published in June 2009 highlighted the need to ensure consumers are protected and confident when shopping online.

"Our investment will help the OFT and Trading Standards to put in place new specialist teams, training and technology to take the fight to these criminals," said consumer minister Kevin Brennan.

The OFT team has begun training with an international expert, working in a new laboratory with specialist equipment to support the OFT's enforcement work.

The government initiative will also see new highly trained Trading Standards enforcers with specialist equipment in England, Scotland and Wales.

Enforcers will focus on fake products and traders, counterfeit ticket sales and scam websites aimed at duping consumers into paying for counterfeit or non-existent goods.

"The enforcement team will be looking at the activities of a wide range of commercial websites and taking action in cases where consumer rights are abused," said Heather Clayton, senior director for the OFT.

The OFT will coordinate which enforcer is best placed to take action on a particular issue and will focus on the most serious cyber scams.

Where appropriate, cases will be passed on to the Police Central eCrime Unit and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, as well as the Companies Investigations Branch of the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).


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