Federal Agencies Open Internet Fraud Complaint Center

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Federal law enforcement agencies earlier this month opened the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, an agency in Morgantown, WV, that operates a Web site and provides victims of Internet scams with a central location to file complaints.

The organization was established to combat the growing problem of fraud over the Internet, according to the parties involved -- the FBI, the Department of Justice and the National White Collar Crime Center.

Indeed, the numbers are growing. Recently, the National Consumers League, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, found that consumers lost more than $3.2 million to Internet fraud last year, and Internet fraud complaints by consumers increased 38 percent over 1998. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission received almost 18,000 Internet fraud complaints in 1999, and the Securities and Exchange Commission receives more than 200 to 300 complaints every day about alleged scams over the Internet.

Internet fraud can include bogus work-at-home offers, business opportunity scams, pyramid schemes, illegal lotteries and other schemes offering easy riches.

"The Internet Fraud Complaint Center allows consumers who suspect Internet fraud to share that information with law enforcement quickly and efficiently," U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said in a prepared statement. "Our ability to work with private citizens and industry is extremely important to our efforts to fight Internet crime, and the IFCC is a major step forward in that fight."

FBI Director Louis J. Freeh said, "The Internet provides a boundless new medium for many traditional frauds investigated by the FBI. That there are real victims suffering significant losses remains unchanged. This center is another positive development as law enforcement responds to yet another facet of cybercrime."

After consumers file Internet fraud complaints online on the IFCC's Web site, www.ifccfbi.gov, the organization's trained personnel log complaints filed online; analyze them to determine who has jurisdiction over the complaint; conduct the appropriate level of analytical and investigative work; and disseminate the information to the appropriate local, state and federal law enforcement agencies for criminal, civil or administrative action.

"The IFCC has been developed to identify, track and assist in the prosecution of fraudulent schemes on the Internet on a national and international level. This partnership will allow law enforcement and the private sector to address and eradicate this growing problem," Freeh said.

The site also includes constantly updated information on new types of fraudulent activity and advice on how to avoid online cons.

The IFCC will be staffed by 12 FBI agents and approximately 24 support staff members from the NWCCC.

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