FBI Crime Center to Focus on Online Consumer Fraud

WASHINGTON (05/08/2000) - As the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) continues to work on the ''Love Bug'' computer virus case, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno has unveiled a major new FBI crime center charged with fighting Internet consumer fraud.

The bureau, along with the National White Collar Crime Center, has opened the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) in Morgantown, West Virginia, to receive and track complaints concerning online fraud. The Motley Fool, an online investment site, will offer technical advice.

Reno said today that the IFCC will work with state and local law enforcement agencies, but she gave no indication that the new center will join forces with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has been aggressively pursuing Internet fraud for years and has prosecuted dozens of cases.

Most recently, the FTC announced on May 5 a new antifraud alliance with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, 100 local Better Business Bureaus and all 50 U.S. state attorneys general. In March, the FTC announced that a Web sweep, dubbed "GetRichQuick.Con," had snagged more than 1,600 fraudulent Web sites in partnership with law enforcement and other agencies in 28 countries.

"Other agencies are doing a limited amount of proactive work in logging complaints," says FBI Assistant Director Rubin Garcia, who is in charge of the agency's criminal division. He called the new center "the foundation of a national strategic plan to combat Internet fraud."

The announcement of the FBI's new Internet fraud power play was somewhat overshadowed today by the continuing investigation into the ''Love Bug'' virus case, which reportedly has resulted in arrests in the Philippines. Reno refused to discuss any of the case's specifics, saying only that the government will "continue to pursue all relevant leads in the case" and "will continue to work with (Filipino authorities) in every way we possibly can."

She did, however, take advantage of the "Love Bug" buzz to draw attention to the need for international cooperation in combating Internet fraud, and she called on other countries to develop "common legislation" with the U.S. to make international Internet policing easier.

Reno said she and her counterparts in the Group of Eight industrialized nations have already started talks about how to write common legislation and develop new cooperative efforts to fight international cybercrime.

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