FTC Cracks Down on Spam and Web-Based Scams

At a press conference on April 2, 2002, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its participation in Netforce, an international law enforcement initiative targeting deceptive spam and Internet fraud. Together, the Canadian and U.S. state governmental agencies that comprise Netforce have already achieved stunning results in some areas, and they are planning ground-breaking activities in others. Examples:

  • The agencies have brought 63 law enforcement actions against web-based scams ranging from auction fraud to bogus cancer cure sites, and they have sent more than 500 letters warning people sending deceptive spam that it is illegal.

  • The FTC maintains a database of unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE). Consumers send unwanted spam to the agency at a rate of approximately 15,000 e-mails a day using the agency's database address, uce@ftc.gov. The FTC has already collected more than 10 million unwanted spam messages.

  • Netforce partners are testing whether "remove me" or "unsubscribe" options in spam are being honored. From a sample of e-mails that purported to allow recipients to remove their name from a spam list, the agencies found the vast majority of return addresses were invalid. As a result, the FTC has already sent more than 75 letters warning spammers that deceptive "removal" claims in unsolicited e-mail are illegal.

  • In conjunction with the law enforcement initiative, the agencies are also mounting a consumer education campaign. An FTC publication You've Got Spam: How to "Can" Unwanted Email advises consumers on ways to reduce the amount of spam they receive.

"Illegal Internet schemes and deceptive spam don't stop at state lines or international borders," said J. Howard Beales III, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The FTC and its law enforcement partners are sending a signal to scammers: We're out there surfing the Net, reading our spam and working together to stop Internet scams."

Partners in the international Netforce include the Alaska Attorney General, the Alaska State Troopers, the Alberta Government Services, the British Columbia Securities Commission, the British Columbia Solicitor General, Canada's Competition Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, the Idaho Attorney General, the Montana Department of Administration, the Oregon Department of Justice, the Washington Attorney General, the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions and the Wyoming Attorney General.

-Rosemary Schlank

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