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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is to head up an international Internet sweep aimed at unmasking Web sites that target consumers with misleading or fraudulent claims.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is to head up an international Internet sweep aimed at unmasking Web sites that target consumers with misleading or fraudulent claims.

In Australia alone, such Web scams have cost consumers more than $1 billion, according to Peter Kell, deputy chairman of the ACCC, who will lead the international probe. He quotes figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to back this claim

He says criminals are increasingly using the global financial crisis to lure victims. “When people are in financial hardship they may be more likely to take a chance on a scheme that promises to help them out of a bind, whether it relates to employment, easy money, or fixing a health problem. However, scammers will take their money regardless of their personal circumstances,”
Kell said.

He said there had been a 60 per cent increase in the number of consumer scams reported to ACCC last year, and the vast majority of these were online.

Kell added: “By the end of the sweep, thousands of web sites will be inspected and suspicious sites will be flagged for further investigation and follow-up action. As a result of the sweep the agencies aim to disrupt the activities of scammers.”

The annual international sweep is organised by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), made up of consumer protection authorities from 42 countries.

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