- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2000

Attorney General Janet Reno yesterday said more Americans are falling victim to fraud on the Internet every day, prompting her to open a "one-stop shopping" center to identify Internet fraud schemes.

Miss Reno said the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) will provide law enforcement with a centralized information center to identify Internet fraud schemes and refer them to the proper law enforcement agency.

She said the Justice Department also had created a secure World Wide Web site (www.ifccfbi.gov) to give consumers nationwide the ability to file Internet fraud complaints on line.

"Law enforcement authorities have told us they need a nationwide mechanism to gather and review these types of Internet-related complaints," she said. "Today's center is that stop on the information superhighway where law enforcement and consumers can meet and can make the road safer for us all."

The Justice Department's ongoing Internet Fraud Initiative already has targeted the 18,000 complaints filed last year with the Federal Trade Commission on Internet consumer fraud and the 200 to 300 complaints filed daily at the Securities and Exchange Commission on suspected securities fraud.

"Thanks to the initiative, we now prosecute criminals who steal credit-card numbers on line and use them to make purchases without the victims' knowledge," Miss Reno said. "We now pursue con artists who offer bogus products at on-line auctions. We now go after people who disseminate false information on line about a company to artificially manipulate stock prices for their own profit.

"And we now are prosecuting identity thieves, who steal personal information about someone else and use it as their own," she said.

Miss Reno said the Justice Department's National Advocacy Center at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., also is training hundreds of prosecutors and FBI agents along with foreign prosecutors and investigators on how to investigate and prosecute Internet fraud.

She also said she and the justice and interior officials of the other leading industrial nations will undertake a comprehensive response to Internet fraud, including prevention, investigation, prosecution, conviction and sentencing.

"But we all understand that we must and can do more," she said that concern prompting the creation of the department's new complaint center.

Assistant FBI Director Rubin Garcia, who heads the bureau's criminal division, said the center would be located in Morgantown, W.Va., and would give consumers and merchants the "means to report fraudulent activity being committed utilizing the Internet."

Mr. Garcia said the IFCC's mission is to develop a national strategic plan to address Internet fraud and to provide support law enforcement and regulatory agencies at all levels of government, both domestic and international.

He said computer crimes fall into two main categories: when computers are targeted by criminals and the general motivation is to impair, damage or alter computer systems; and when a computer is used as a tool to facilitate an illegal activity.

"Internet fraud is defined as any instance in which any one or more components of the Internet, such as Web sites, the chat rooms, e-mail where these components play a significant role in offering nonexistent goods or services to customers, in communicating false or fraudulent representations about schemes to consumers, in transmitting victims' funds, or any other items of value, to the control of the scheme's perpetrator," he said.

Mr. Garcia said the IFCC would primarily focus on cases in which a computer is used to commit a crime on the Internet.

"The frauds being committed today over the Internet are the same type of frauds the FBI has traditionally investigated, such as telemarketing fraud, money laundering, gambling and securities fraud," he said. "However, the Internet poses an additional concern and challenge because of the nature of the virtual environment.

"The Internet does not have the boundaries as seen in traditional fraud schemes, and the traditional methods of detecting, reporting and investigating fraud are ineffective in this virtual environment," he said.

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