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UK probes ‘too good to be true’ Internet offers

176 sites dredged up during trawl for Web bottom-feeders

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An international trawl for the bottom-feeders of the Internet has dredged up 176 UK websites making claims that are "too good to be true", the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) reports.

While this will come as no surprise to battle-hardened scam-spotters such as El Reg, the OFT is to be applauded for its efforts to expose these charlatans before some fool and his money are well and truly parted.

The sweep was carried out by the OFT and 30 local trading standards departments as part of a 31-country International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network initiative.

The UK sites unearthed included "90 working from home schemes, 52 get rich quick schemes, 20 lottery scams, 15 free prize offers, and four sites offering educational qualifications".

Some of the familiar lines of attack deployed by these were:

  • a working from home scheme offering business opportunities that will significantly increase income, e.g. over £2,500 per month, without specifying how this is done and only provided mobile telephone numbers
  • a lottery scam which provided no contact details but claimed '100% guaranteed, no risk of loss whatsoever...'
  • a free prize draw offering '£3 a night for a luxury hotel accommodation' but consumers must send £49.95 obtain a Directory which contains discount vouchers.
  • a 'get rich quick' scheme claiming that in 24 hours people could raise £198,000.

Yes, it's all horribly familiar. Mercifully, the OFT confirms that those websites "identified by the sweep as potentially breaching consumer protection regulations are being pursued by local trading standards or the OFT with a view to taking further action".

Good show. As for the international operation, it uncovered a total of 1847 sites. The OFT's Director of Consumer Regulation and Enforcement, Christine Wade, noted: "The internet is used by fraudsters who seek to take advantage of international boundaries to avoid detection. Cross border co-operation is therefore important for combating this area of consumer detriment." ®

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