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International anti-spam enforcement agencies are meeting in London today to work up a joint plan of action for tackling junk mail. The conference is billed as the "first international meeting of spam enforcers".

Hosted by the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) and the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the talking shop brings together consumer and data protection officers with telecoms execs from more than 20 countries. They are also discussing how to tackle the online fraud and computer viruses.

Three years ago only one in ten messages were spam - now it's up to 60 per cent, according to anti-spam vendor Brightmail. An estimated 80 per cent of spam hitting the in-box of UK net users originates from overseas, underlining the importance of cross-border enforcement.

The OFT is keen to build on its successes to date in co-operating with its peers overseas. These include a joint investigation between the OFT and the US Federal Trade Commission into a UK-based firm (called TLD Networks) which spammed US consumers with a patriotic message in an attempt to con them into buying fake domain names.

In another case, the OFT teamed up with the Italian competition authority over a case that linked spam with modem hijacking. Italian consumers were targeted by junk mail sent by a UK company, directing recipients to a "cookery" website. This site contained malicious code. If this code was activated, a recipient's modem connections were redirected to a premium rate line. The company withdrew the website and closed its office,s following the OFT's intervention.

Today's conference will include sessions on comparing the enforcement powers of different government agencies and departments, best practice on evidence collection, cooperation with the private sector, and devising a practical framework for international law enforcement action. ®

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