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SCAMS AWARENESS MONTH

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A campaign to alert the public to deceptive and fraudulent mass-marketed scams has been launched by the Office of F...
A campaign to alert the public to deceptive and fraudulent mass-marketed scams has been launched by the Office of Fair Trading.

The campaign is co-ordinated throughout the member countries of

ICPEN, the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network.

The ICPEN president this year is Christine Wade, the OFT's director

of consumer regulation enforcement.

The campaign aims to arm consumers with the knowledge and skills

necessary to recognise, report and stamp out scams, many of which

originate from overseas. It will support the development of further

cross-border co-operation between ICPEN member organisations, and

between members and other law enforcement agencies such as the FBI,

the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

(RCMP) and the United States Postal Inspection Service. In addition

to alerting the public about scams they may receive through e-mail,

the post or by telephone, it will culminate in a worldwide internet

sweep, co-ordinated across ICPEN member countries, specifically to

identify current scams which use unsolicited e-mails (spam) to target

victims.

The OFT's awareness campaign will include:

* information on the most common types of scam

* a leaflet highlighting what people should look out for and how to

protect themselves against falling victim to deceptive approaches, to

be distributed through trading standards departments, neighbourhood

watch schemes, and other voluntary and statutory agencies

* a radio advertising campaign

* a video news release and web-chat

Ms Wade said:

'As the global market place shrinks and communications systems become

more sophisticated, the threat from rogue traders and scams that

exploit consumers increases. Scammers are organised, manipulative and

resourceful. Scams damage individuals and harm the interests of

legitimate business. That is why the OFT has identified combating

scams as a priority area for the next three years.

'Our presidency of ICPEN presents us with an opportunity to work more

closely not only with ICPEN members, but also with law enforcement

agencies in other countries so we deliver seamless global enforcement

and tackle scams which originate outside our borders. That work must

extend to arming consumers with the skills to recognise and combat

scams when they are targeted.'

Lydia Parnes, acting director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer

Education, said:

'The FTC is very pleased to join ICPEN and the OFT in this global

campaign to educate consumers about the tell-tale signs of fraud and

scams. By publicising the tools to recognise fraud and report it, we

can help stop it and, in turn, increase consumer confidence in cross

border trade.'

Tim Killam, assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted

Police, said:

'The RCMP works closely with many partners nationally and

internationally to combat organised crime in all its facets,

including consumer fraud. If we are to be successful in ensuring safe

homes and safe communities, our approach must be fully integrated and

borderless.'

NOTES

1. ICPEN is a membership organisation comprising the trade practices

law enforcement authorities of more than 30 countries. The mandate of

the network is to share information about cross-border commercial

activities that may affect consumer interests, and to encourage

international cooperation among law enforcement agencies. The network

operates under a rotating presidency.

2. The campaign will roll out over the month of February and feature

weekly announcements highlighting different types of scams and advice

on how consumers can recognise and protect themselves against being

conned.

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