American consumers filed more that half-a-million fraud reports last year adding up to over $437 million in losses, with Internet fraud for the first time accounting for more than half of the complaints, according to a report released by the Federal Trade Commission this week. Identity theft was the most prevalent form of fraud reported, representing 42 percent of all complaints. In 19 percent of those cases, thieves used the stolen identities to apply for credit cards under the victim's name. In 12 percent, they settled for using the victim's existing credit card accounts. Unspecified employment-related motives accounted for 11 percent of I.D. theft cases, and a little over 10 percent of the time the thieves were just after a free cell phone in the victim's name. In eight percent of the cases, the culprits plundered the victim's bank accounts. The Internet played a prominent role in 55 percent of all the fraud reports, up from 45 percent in 2002, and accounting for approximately $200 million in losses. The most popular Internet scams reported were online auction rip-offs -- 15 percent of the cases -- and spammy quit-your-job-and-work-at-home-for-big-bucks swindles, which made up nine percent of the complaints. The stats were harvested from an FTC-run database called "Consumer Sentinel" that pools fraud reports from a variety of official sources, including the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the National Consumers League's National Fraud Information Center, Canada's "Phonebusters," and the Better Business Bureau. "More than 900 law enforcement agencies in the U.S., Canada, and Australia are using Consumer Sentinel, accessing one-and-a-half million consumer complaints through the Sentinel network," said Howard Beales, Director of the FTC's consumer protection bureau. "They can coordinate actions, track down leads, and research other law enforcement tools." The report does not attempt to identify how thieves obtained the data needed to steal more than 200,000 consumers' identities, but security holes and data leaks remained a grim e-commerce reality in 2003. A California law intended to combat I.D. theft took effect July 1st, and obligates companies doing business online to warn their California customers in "the most expedient time possible" about any cyber security breach that exposes customers' names in association with their social security number, drivers license number, or a credit card or bank account number. The law has yet to see any enforcement action. A similar federal bill is under consideration in Congress. Copyright © 2004,
Microsoft is to start selling Welsh language versions of Windows XP and Office. Previously, the firm offered only a Welsh language spell checker. Now it is to incorporate all the interface commands in the Welsh language. Here's an example of the what one might expect: "Nid yw pori'r rhwydwaith yn bosib". It means: "Browsing the network is not possible." Don't be too concerned by the apparent lack of vowels: the Welsh language has two more vowels than English - w and y - and as you can see, makes full use of both. According to this interesting article, Microsoft's move is a head-them-off-at-the pass response to the actions of an informal 25-strong group of Welsh-language Linux enthusiasts which is translating software commands for the Open Source operating system. The volunteers have ploughed their way through the translation of 45 per cent of the Linux operating, amounting to 90,000 command and phrases "but the bits that remain in English tend to be for relatively obscure operations that many computer users will never perform". Certainly, Microsoft is being very nice to the Welsh language. It is funding its own translation and Welsh language modules will be available free of charge sometime in 2004. The firm is working hand in glove with the Welsh Language Board, which has produced a press release (in English) here. Approximately 300,000 people speak Welsh as their first language, just about all of whom will speak English fluently too. But after years of decline, Welsh speaking is on the increase again, helped along by strong promotion of the language through the Principality's schools. ® Related stories On Windows, Nynorsk, Sami and Catalan Windows comes to Bhutan
A court in Italy has dealt a major blow to the efforts of the platform holders to crack down on mod chips, ruling that PS2 mod chip devices are designed to "avoid monopolistic positions." The case was brought over a seizure of modded PlayStation 2s by the Italian authorities some days previously, with the court deciding that this seizure was illegal and that modding consoles is a legitimate practice. The chips "avoid monopolistic positions and improve the possibilities for use of the PlayStation," according to the ruling, which described Sony's attempts to limit the uses of the PS2 as "absurd," pointing out that the console cannot play titles from other geographic regions or home-made software products. The decision was focused on an interpretation of Italian law relating to a company's right to limit the use of its products once they have been sold, with the final conclusion being that "the product's owner can use it as they see fit". That's not what the console manufacturers will have wanted to hear, given that their business model is largely based on the idea of selling console hardware at a loss (at least in the early parts of its lifespan) and restricting its use to playing licensed software only so that the money can be recouped through licensing fees. "It's a little like Fiat marketing its cars while banning them from being driven by non-European citizens or outside towns," the court commented. The Italian case may well have knock-on effects on other products which are available in the country, such as region-locked DVD players - and it may even embolden mod chippers in other European countries with similar laws to press legal cases over the issue. The report into the case was published by the Association pour la Liberte dans les Communications Electroniques Interactives, a similar body to the United States' Electronic Frontier Foundation.