Extra funding will aid the Trading Standards and fund a cyber-enforcement team
The Government has launched a new cyber-enforcement team within the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and provided extra funding for Trading Standards to tackle online fraud.
Each year these scams rip-off around three million UK consumers for around £3.5 billion. In an attempt to bring more fraudsters to justice, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will invest £4.3 million over the next three years to fund the project.
A laboratory with specialist computer forensics equipment has been set up for the OFT team. The money will also be used to fund the training and technology needed to set up regional teams, drawn from local Trading Standards offices.
These teams will be placed in every region of England and in Scotland and Wales.
Kevin Brennan, consumer minister, said: “The internet is rapidly transforming the way we shop. It presents massive opportunities for consumers, but unfortunately it also harbours fraudsters who can leave consumers upset and out of pocket.
“So as they get more sophisticated, we need to stay one step ahead. Our investment will help the OFT and Trading Standards to put in place the new specialist teams, training and technology required to take the fight to these criminals.”
The teams will focus on scams such as fake websites such as Zavvi Direct and Instant AV and retailers selling counterfeit products – two online crimes uncovered by Computeractive. The teams will also focus on ticket scams and traders who try to hide their identity to avoid giving consumers redress.
The teams will be made up of a series of experts according to a representative for the OFT, including lawyers and trading standards officers.
The OFT and Trading Standards will also liaise with specialist cyber crime police agencies such as the police central e-crime unit, run by the Met, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and Companies Investigations Branch when appropriate.
Consumer Direct, is the OFT's consumer advice service, which can provide help and pass on complaints and information to Trading Standards and the OFT.
Heather Clayton, OFT senior director, said: “Online consumer protection is a key priority for the OFT. The enforcement team will be looking at the activities of a wide range of commercial websites and taking action in cases where consumers’ rights are being abused.
“Ultimately, giving the public even greater confidence to shop online is what drives the activities of our enforcement team.
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