OECD turns attention to online fraud

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has issued a report which it hopes will help governments address cross-border fraud, particularly fraud carried out over the Internet and telecommunications channels.

In the 33-page report, the OECD noted that current laws and enforcement systems are not up to the task of combatting cross-border fraud, which has the potential to become more widespread with the development of e-commerce technologies.

"The development of the Internet and improvements in telecommunications technologies have brought significant benefits to consumers in terms of price and choice and facilitated the globalization of markets through cross-border transactions," the OECD wrote in the report. "They have also provided unprecedented opportunities for businesses and individuals engaged in fraudulent and deceptive commercial practices to harm consumers from different jurisdictions and to evade enforcement authorities."

As well as urging international cooperation to beat online and other cross-border fraud, the OECD said that many countries might need to change domestic legislation to overcome barriers to effective cooperation with other countries. This will help lead to quicker identification of fraudsters and their location, the OECD said.

"Cross-border fraud operators strike quickly, victimize thousands of consumers in a short period of time and then disappear along with the proceeds of their frauds. They are able to escape prosecution in many cases because of the limited ability of law enforcement agencies to pursue them across national boundaries or share evidence with other national agencies," the OECD wrote in the report.

"(Wrongdoers) can use facilities in a variety of territories such as... Internet service providers... telephone providers, domain name registries, Web site hosting services, banks, credit card processors, call centers, data processing centers."

Countries will need to develop online tools to enable faster sharing of information on cross-border frauds among law enforcement and consumer protection agencies. The differing legal systems and mechanisms in various countries pose a problem which is not yet addressed by international judicial mechanisms and law enforcement cooperation, the OECD said.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission in January set up a Web site to provide information about cross-border frauds, which it says cost U.S. consumers billions of dollars per year. According to the FTC, the most common cross-border frauds involve bogus prize promotions, foreign lottery schemes, advance-fee loan scams, fraudulent travel offers, and unnecessary credit card loss protection offers.

The FTC Web site is at http://www.ftc.gov/crossborder.

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David Legard

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