Government throws millions at tackling online fraud

The Office of Fair Trading will receive £4.3 million to try to root out fraudulent e-traders.

cybercrime

The Government is to try to tackle the growing problem of online scams with the launch of a 4.3 million cyber enforcement team.

The new team will sit within the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), and will attempt to curb the proliferation of online trading cons and mis-selling.

One major focus will be the reduction in the provision of counterfeit tickets sold online for major sporting events. Trading Standards will receive part of the funding, which is spread over three years, to increase its online efforts.

Consumer minister Kevin Brennan said: "As [fraudsters] get more sophisticated, we need to stay one step ahead. Our investment will help the OFT and Trading Standards to put in place the new specialist teams, training and technology required to take the fight to these criminals."

Much of the drive to protect consumers online was created by Lord Carter's Digital Britain report, published in June 2009. The report highlighted the importance of online purchasing and creating consumer confidence in it.

Ron Gainsford, the chief executive of the Trading Standards Institute, which represents Trading Standards professionals, said: "I am delighted to see this investment in trading standards. The profession has invaluable skills and experience fighting scams in the non-virtual world that will now be put to excellent use in the cyber teams. These specialist teams will help us be a modern regulatory service that can handle the increasingly complex threats and demands of the online market."

But critics are likely to question why it has taken so long for the OFT and Trading Standards to develop its skills to combat crime online.

The creation of the cyber enforcement team increases the broad range of organisations created by the Government which now exist to target web-based crime. The Serious Fraud Office, the Police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, National Fraud Authority, the National Fraud Reporting Centre and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau are already engaged in tackling fraud, with varying success.

This multitude of crime-fighting authorities has on many occasions caused confusion and some cases to fall between the remit of multiple organisations. The OFT will now assume a co-ordination role to try to route specific issues to the right agency.

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