Scam Artists Growing More Hi-tech, Mobile

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WASHINGTON -- Perpetrators of fraudulent telemarketing schemes are using new technology to cover their tracks and are moving across international borders to avoid prosecution, a government lawyer said at the American Teleservices Association's legislative conference here yesterday.

New technology, including the Internet, has enabled fraud artists to become more mobile, said Eugene Thirolf, an attorney for the U.S. Justice Department. Thus, investigators often find that when they stop a scam in one region, it pops up in another.

Technology also makes it difficult to trace a scam to its perpetrator, Thirolf said. New phone technologies let criminals disguise their location and identity.

"These are folks who don't have a boiler room," Thirolf said. "They're operating from a cell phone and have three different locations."

FBI agents are currently working with Canadian law enforcement to track down cross-border scam artists who are defrauding U.S. consumers, Thirolf said. The operation, dubbed Canadian Eagle, is designed to help Canadian authorities who lack the funding and resources of their U.S. counterparts.

Many fraudulent Canadian telemarketing operations target the elderly because older people have a more difficult time traveling abroad to testify as witnesses, Thirolf said.

"That's pretty clever and nasty," he said. "We're doing things to try and address that."

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