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Paedophiles who use credit cards to pay for access to child abuse sites risk having their credit cards withdrawn. National Crime Squad Assistant Chief Constable Jim Gamble said UK police were working with banks and credit reference agencies on procedures to blacklist offenders. The same credit cards sometimes feature in prosecution of repeat offenders.

"By using credit cards to perform an unlawful act they will have breached their card issuers' terms and conditions. We can't allow credit cards to become instruments of crime," said ACC Gamble.

Stolen credit card details are occasionally used to access child abuse websites. ACC Gamble said police have "diligent procedures to double check information" so that paedophile allegations are not made on the basis of a credit card transaction alone.

Police are also keen to persuade card issuers of the wisdom of withdrawing merchant status from aggregators guilty of knowingly doing business with pay-per-view child abuse sites.

The idea was discussed at a meeting of the Virtual Global Task Force in London this week. The Task Force, which brings together police forces and other agencies, was set up six months with the goal of making the Internet a safer environment for youngsters. Plans for police across the world to co-ordinate the monitoring of Internet chat rooms in order to deter paedophiles from 'grooming' prospective victims online were discussed at the conference.

Details of the monitoring scheme, including when it might be introduced and how many officers might be involved, remain sketchy. At a press conference this morning police were repeatedly asked how they could hope to monitor a huge number of Internet sites.

Gamble noted that police were targeting resources. "We're not looking to occupy every chat room. We're following an intelligence-led approach taking information from our cyber-tip off lines and elsewhere," he said.

The monitoring scheme is part of establishing a visible police presence online separate from undercover investigations of paedophile activity online, which might still take place. The success of the scheme will be apparent from its deterrent effect of driving paedophiles out of chat rooms and from any arrests made, ACC Gamble said. ®

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