The Federal Trade Commission and members of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) are meeting in Jeju, Korea, on March 26-28, to discuss the progress of international efforts to combat cross-border fraud and explore new international initiatives to protect consumers around the world. The FTC’s participation in ICPEN is one part of the agency’s ongoing effort to combat a rising number of cross-border fraud complaints from American consumers.
ICPEN members discussed the results of a recent Internet surf for Web sites that are “hidden traps online.” Over 30 countries participated in the international surf. In the United States, the focus was on Web sites with fraudulent claims advertising “miracle cures” for diabetes, with the FTC, FDA, and several states Attorneys General offices participating. The FTC and its partners reviewed over 1,000 Web sites and identified over 150 with potentially misleading diabetes claims. The FTC will follow-up, sending warning letters to Web sites that appear to have deceptive or false claims.
Members also discussed the initiatives in each country for Fraud Prevention Month in March. The initiatives are designed to raise public awareness through events and activities of the dangers of fraud and educate the public on how to recognize and report it. This year, 27 organizations from 25 countries participated.
As part of Fraud Prevention Month, the FTC launched a new section about cross-border online fraud on OnGuardOnline.gov, an educational site with information to keep computer users safe online. Available in both English and Spanish, the site offers information about common scams and tips for avoiding them, as well as instructions on reporting fraud. For example, consumers should not respond to solicitors who offer to help them buy tickets or split winnings – victims of foreign lottery scams have lost thousands of dollars. Other topics include foreign money offers, like the “Nigerian” scam, and foreign check overpayment schemes. In addition to the new information on OnGuardOnline.gov, the FTC hosted many activities nationwide to educate consumers.
ICPEN also will hold a joint session with the Committee on Consumer Policy of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to discuss consumer education and outreach. The international presenters will share details of their consumer education campaigns, including OnGuard Online, as well as best practices and ideas for the future.
ICPEN is composed of the consumer protection agencies in 32 countries – Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The network gathers to share information about cross-border activities that may affect consumers and encourage international cooperation among law enforcement agencies.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Bureau of Consumer Protection