NSW Fair Trading brandishes analytics stick

The NSW Department of Fair Trading has announced a $300,000 investment in a NetMap Analytics system to help seek and destroy the plethora of scam peddlers operating in the Premier State.

Fair Trading Minister John Aquilina told Computerworld the NetMap system will "assist Fair Trading's investigators in better identifying trends and links so as to identify businesses and individuals involved in a whole range of rip-offs. [The size of the rip-off problem] is very hard to quantify, but just on mail scams we've intercepted 400,000 letters. Just on that… it's in the millions".

Of those 400,000 items around 200,000 were intercepted from a single Canadian operator asking for $50. Other scams include falsely billing businesses for advertising in non-existent magazines, which were pitched at the Police and Emergency Services community, and the ever-present pyramid selling scams.

The minister also said that the new analytics push would enable Fair Trading to "identify individuals who have obtained a business licence through fraudulent means, be able to plot the activities of Internet traders and identify their affiliations… and habitual shonky traders".

The new push, the forthcoming state election aside, is part of a greater effort to increase the number of enforcement actions and prosecutions launched against recidivistic individuals and companies, and comes hand-in-hand with legislation introduced into the NSW Parliament for a doubling of penalty amounts and new jail terms of up to three years.

The main purpose of the NetMap application will be to mine the numerous licensing records databases – everything from real estate agents to mechanics – of which the director general of Fair Trading is the licensing authority alongside other registries such as ASIC. At last count, Fair Trading's system held about 480,000 business names; it handles around two million contacts with traders and runs 1400 desktops on Windows 2000, Unix and HPL.

NetMap Analytics CEO Richard McLean says the Fair Trading implementation will run primarily across Oracle databases but will also drill into Informix, Access2, FoxPro and Unify. The company is privately held in Australia with a 15 per cent strategic interest from US insurance claim verification brokers ISO. Clients include ASIO, ATO and David Jones.