ACCC receives 12,000 online scam complaints

"Concludes" just two case in 2008-09

Online scams were the source of close to 12,000 complaints to the ACCC in the 2008-09 period, yet the consumer watchdog “concluded” just two instances of what it believed be cybercrime-related breaches to the Trade Practices Act.

Speaking at the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications into cybercrime, ACCC group general manager, Enforcement Operations Scott Gregson said the decision to take action in two out of 11,998 cases was based on focusing the agency’s resources on the “matters that will deliver the maximum benefit to consumers.”

“We also obviously have regard to whether participants are within our jurisdiction, either the application of the act jurisdiction or the ability to enforce remedies we might receive in Australia,” he said. “We generally should have regard to whether court action we take is actually going to deliver something in terms of fixing the conduct, so we have regard to those issues as well.”

The ACCC had about 140 full time investigators, however the team which specifically dealt with online scams ranged between three and four investigators. The team, however was “heavily supplemented” by investigators in the ACCC’s state and regional offices, Gregson said.

Gregson noted that the ACCC was focusing on online scam disruption activity – an area emerging as an important technique for dealing with scams.

“We try to look at ways to interfere with the delivery of money from scams, the platforms they use, whether they be online or otherwise, and other delivery methods of communications, whether it be mail or other traditional means of communication,” he said. “We obviously follow both those activities up with targeted enforcement actions.”

The ACCC was also looking at ways to “better predict the scam of the day”, Gregson said.

“We are looking at events that are coming up almost monthly to see whether they could generate the same type of activity,” he said. “Just last week we issued some warnings in the ICPEN context in relation to the World Cup soccer ticketing that is going to come out and put warnings out so that consumers can be alive to any scams come out in that area.”

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