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Internet Fraud Sites Put on Notice

New Zealand's Ministry of Consumer Affairs has taken part in the largest ever international crackdown on Internet fraud.

The Ministry joined 150 organisations from 28 countries in a sweep of the Internet for bogus get-rich-quick schemes, the Minister of Consumer Affairs Hon Phillida Bunkle announced today.

More than 1,600 sites were found worldwide. Other New Zealand agencies to take part in the sweep were the Commerce Commission and the Consumer's Institute, the Minister said.

"Together with our international partners, we are putting get-rich-quick schemes on notice that we are monitoring the Web," said Ms Bunkle.

"Warning e-mails are now being sent to the targeted sites and the sites will be monitored to see that they are removed. If they are not removed, the US Federal Trade Commission (responsible for co-ordinating the sweep) will investigate enforcement action."

Among the sites discovered were pyramid schemes, on-line chain letters, false work from home schemes, gambling schemes, offers of payment to surf the web or chat on-line, and other general investment schemes. Sites promised such things as "Start down the road to success and you too can earn over $1,000 a day", "Call it a scam but it makes $$$ fast" or "How to turn $6 into $6000: Reading this could change your life" .

"To our knowledge, no New Zealand sites were found," said Ms Bunkle.
"However, this is a timely reminder for New Zealand consumers who might be duped into these phoney schemes.

"People don't realise that when they make offshore transactions over the Internet, they leave behind the protection of New Zealand's consumer laws," Ms Bunkle said.

Bogus Internet schemes may promise:
* you can work from home but are required to invest or send money away
before you can start
* you've won a prize (particularly for a competition you never even
entered), but you have to pay to collect the prize
* tickets for overseas lotteries (any lottery run in
New Zealand must be authorised by the Department of Internal Affairs)
* financial success is dependent on recruiting others rather than
selling real products or services (this is pyramid selling and is illegal).

The Miniser said consumers need to ensure they DON'T:
* get sucked in by the hype - take time to think about it and to check
out the offer and the company
* get sucked in by statements such as, "this scheme is legal".
Statements like this need to be read with care
* believe claims that it is approved by a government agency
* send money away - particularly to only a PO Box number or overseas -
until you have checked out the company
* invest money without first seeking independent professional advice.

The sweep day is one of four the Ministry has been involved in over the past three years. They targeted scams, false health claims, and surveyed Internet shopping sites to see how well they met consumers interests.

"My Ministry also maintains a Scam Watch site on its website, listing phone, postal, and email scams that are known to be circulating in New Zealand," said Ms Bunkle. The site can be found at www.consumer-ministry.govt.nz.

"My Ministry will continue to warn New Zealanders of scams through its website and the media, and will continue to take part in these international initiatives," said Ms Bunkle. "Though we speak different languages, on the subject of Internet fraud, we speak with one voice - con artists need to be brought to account.”


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