WASHINGTON — The Justice Department and FBI today launched a Web site on
which consumers and businesses can report suspected Internet frauds.
Attorney General Janet Reno said law enforcement needs new tools such as the
Internet Fraud Complaint Center as Web use grows, particularly among older
Americans with more time to surf and more assets for criminals to target.
“The center will provide law enforcement at all levels–federal, state and
local–with something they have been asking for a long time: a one-stop
shopping approach to identifying Internet fraud schemes and referring them
to the proper agency,” Reno said at a news conference.
Assistant FBI director Rubin Garcia, head of the bureau’s criminal
investigative division, said the center will send the complaints to the
appropriate federal, state, local or even foreign law enforcement agencies.
The center also will analyze complaints, compile statistics and propose
strategies for dealing with people who commit crimes using computers.
“The Internet is used to commit the same types of fraud the FBI has
traditionally investigated–telemarketing, money laundering, securities
fraud–but traditional investigative methods are ineffective in this new
environment,” Garcia said.
Demographic changes in Internet use have made the need for a new
investigative tool more urgent, he added.
The largest age group using the Internet, 18- to 34-year-olds, account for
39 percent of users, Garcia said. But people over age 50 are the fastest
growing group of Web users and, as a group, they surf the Internet 19
percent longer than all other age groups combined.
“Those older users are on longer and have the most assets available for
investment, so they are more likely to be targets for criminals,” he said.
Last year, the Federal Trade Commission received nearly 18,000 complaints of
Internet consumer fraud, including allegations about online auctions and
sales of computer hardware and software. The Securities and Exchange
Commission gets 200 to 300 complaints a day about possible securities fraud
on the Internet.
The Morgantown, W. Va.-based Internet Fraud Complaint Center was set up in
cooperation with the National White Collar Crime Center, a national support
network funded by the Justice Department to aid state and local prosecutors,
agents and regulators in dealing with high-tech economic crime.
Garcia said the center was not set up to deal with viruses and
denial-of-service attacks aimed at damaging computer systems. But he said
that if complaints about such attacks come in, they will be referred to the
FBI’s National Infrastructure Protection Center, which investigates those
types of computer crimes.