In the largest ever international law enforcement project to fight fraud on the Internet, 150 organizations in 28 countries, including seven U.S. Federal agencies, 49 state and local consumer protection agencies, including 34 Attorneys General, and 39 Better Business Bureaus have swept the Internet targeting phony get-rich-quick schemes.
"Internet con artists are bad actors without borders," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "We want them to know that the borderless Internet marketplace is not a free zone. The partnership we've put together represents 150 organizations from 28 countries on five continents working together to fight Internet fraud. It's an amazing and diverse team. Fraud fighters from the U.K. to Uruguay, from Korea to Kansas have collected and forwarded information to the FTC on more than1,600 suspect sites. Together with our partners, we are putting get-rich-quick schemes on notice that we're monitoring the Web and that we intend to take law enforcement action against those that continue to make fraudulent or deceptive claims. Though we speak different languages, on the subject of Internet fraud, it's with one voice -- con artists will not threaten the safety of the 'Net on our watch."
The surf project, dubbed 'GetRichQuick.Con,' was conducted primarily during the week of February 28 by organizations as diverse as the Hong Kong Consumer Council and the University of Texas Law School. Members surfed the Net looking for bogus work-at-home offers, business opportunity scams, pyramid schemes, illegal lotteries and other sites offering easy riches. The initiative relied heavily on the Internet itself. Partners for the international effort were recruited via e-mail, and a step-by-step manual for conducting the surf and collecting evidence was posted on a password-protected Web site. Upon finding a suspicious promotion, a surf participant located anywhere around the globe could use this Web site to submit information directly into a database administered by the FTC in Washington, D.C. Warning e-mails are now being sent to the targeted sites, with hyperlinks to the partners' consumer and business education materials at www.consumer.gov - a U.S. government Web site developed and hosted by the FTC that contains information for consumers from 140 Federal government Web sites. "If these bad actors can use this new technology to deceive consumers, we can use it to catch them," Bernstein said. "And we have."
"This operation shows state, federal, and international law enforcement can and will fight fraud as the new frontier of the Internet opens up," Washington Attorney General and NAAG President Christine Gregoire said. "We intend to develop the tools and cooperative agreements needed to help protect consumers."
The law enforcers will continue to monitor the sites to see if they've changed their claims in response to e-mail messages and will undertake a coordinated law enforcement effort to shut down sites that demonstrate they won't comply with the law. (A list of partners is attached.)
The FTC's Office of Consumer and Business Education has developed a number of brochures on get-rich-quick scams. Among the most popular are: 'Net Based Business Opportunities: Are Some Flop-portunities?, Multilevel Marketing Plans, and International Lottery Scams.
A list of the surfing partners and copies of the consumer and business education material associated with this 'GetRichQuick.Con' surf project are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and at http://www.consumer.gov/bizonline, They also are available from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; toll free at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.