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US agency cracks down on Internet fraud

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reported that 63 cases have been brought against Internet fraud scams within the past six months.

The FTC's Netforce - a group of eight US and Canadian state law enforcement agencies - concentrated on tracking down perpetrators of deceptive e-mail and Internet fraud. These included phoney cancer cures and e-mail investment schemes.

The FTC has won an injunction against David L. Walker, who is charged with selling fake cancer cures on his Web site. The site has now been taken down.

"This cancer cure was pitched like snake oil on the Internet," Washington state attorney General Christine Gregoire said.

The FTC launched a hi-tech unit two years ago to track down cyber criminals; the Netforce is an extension of those efforts. The commission hopes to increase the number of state law enforcement agencies participating in Netforce to stymie the growing amount of Internet fraud.

"Since Internet fraud knows no boundaries, partnership is the name of the game," Gregoire said.

The agency has launched an education campaign aimed at making consumers more aware of potentially harmful spam practices. The FTC spam fact sheet can be found on the agency's Web site at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/online/spam.htm

Since January 1998, the FTC has received more then 10 million spam messages from consumers. Consumers sent one million spam e-mail messages to the FTC in March alone.

While the 63 cases lodged by Netforce is a good start, the FTC concedes that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Internet fraud.

"The scams are often very familiar, but the Internet often poses a major challenge to enforcement," Gregoire said.

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