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Reno announces new agency to fight Internet fraud
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno on Monday announced the opening of the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, or the IFCC, to provide federal, state and local law enforcement agencies with a "one-stop shopping approach to identifying Internet fraud schemes."
"Every day more Americans are logging on to the Internet to buy goods, chat with friends, to learn more about the world around them," said Reno at a news conference. "But with each passing day, more Americans also are becoming victims of fraud on the Internet."
Reno said that in 1999, Americans filed nearly 18,000 complaints with the Federal Trade Commission about various types of Internet consumer fraud. "They ranged from complaints about online auctions to sales of computer hardware and software."
Reno said the Securities and Exchange Commission receives about 200-300 complaints each day about possible securities fraud schemes on the Internet.
Using the Internet to fight Internet crime
The IFCC's Web site will allow consumers nationwide to file Internet fraud complaints online.
Reno said the Internet Fraud Initiative established last February by the Justice Department already has made considerable strides in combating Internet fraud.
"Thanks to the Initiative, we now prosecute criminals who steal credit card numbers online and use them to make purchases without the victims' knowledge," said Reno.
She said the Initiative also pursues con artists who offer bogus products at online auctions, people who disseminate false information online to manipulate stock prices, and identifies thieves who steal personal information about others and use it as their own.
But the IFCC will give consumers and law officers a single place to go to report Internet fraud.
"Today's center is that stop on the information superhighway where law enforcement and consumers can meet and can make the road safer for us all," Reno said.
Defining Internet fraud
The IFCC will be headquartered in Morgantown, West Virginia. The agency will provide consumers and merchants with a central location to report fraudulent Internet activity, said Ruben Garcia, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
He said the IFCC's mission is to develop a national strategic plan to address Internet fraud and to provide support for national and international agencies fighting Internet crime.
The agency is co-sponsored by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.
Garcia defined Internet fraud as:
"Any instance in which any one or more components of the Internet, such as the Web sites, the chat rooms, e-mail ... play a significant role in offering nonexistent goods or services to customers, in communicating false or fraudulent representations about schemes to consumers, in transmitting victims' funds or any other items of value to the control of the schemes' perpetrator."
According to Garcia, Internet fraud is disjointed and spread nationwide, but he said there are two main categories of Internet crime:
Crimes aimed at impairing, damaging or altering computer systems.
Crimes using computers as a tool to facilitate an illegal activity.
"Anyone in the privacy of their own home can create a pervasive vehicle for fraud with minimal expenses," said Garcia. "With the push of a single button, those committing fraud can send out electronic mail to millions of potential victims."
Garcia said creation of the IFCC is essential. "The IFCC will identify, track and assist in the prosecution of fraudulent schemes being perpetrated on the Internet on a national and an international level."
Announcement of the creation of the new Internet policing agency came the same day that Philippine investigators detained a man for questioning after searching the home of the suspected creator of the "Love Bug" computer virus.
The virus traveled with surprising speed through e-mail sent around the world last week. Millions of unsuspecting victims opened the e-mail, which bore the subject line "ILOVEYOU," releasing the bug into their computers. The virus corrupted some files stored on hard drives.
Reno: Internet users beware
Reno said there are some precautions Internet users can take to prevent Internet fraud:
Don't assume that everything on the Internet is true.
Don't give out valuable personal data without knowing who's asking for it.
Be wary of someone online asking you for data if the person requesting the data is concealing their identity.
Report fraud immediately.
Experts say more legislation will not deter computer hackers
Internet Fraud Complaint Center
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