4:49pm Friday 4th October 2013
A NATIONAL internet crime evidence-gathering centre is being launched to stem an “epidemic” of web-based scams.
The unit, based at North Yorkshire County Council’s Northallerton headquarters, will include a team of nine computer analysts dedicated to tracking down electronic evidence of frauds estimated to cost firms and consumers £29bn annually.
The Government says it is determined to crackdown on the “growing threat” of internet crime, which is estimated to be rising by 20 per cent a year, and wants the unit to both accelerate and increase the number of prosecutions.
A Government spokesman said: “As legitimate businesses have moved online to profit from increased consumer spending, criminals have also moved online to exploit them.
“They are hiding behind its anonymity and taking advantage of its economies of scale to scam and rip-off consumers through fraud and misrepresentation; e-crimes of this kind have reached epidemic proportions.”
The unit has been launched as tackling internet fraud has proved problematic as it goes beyond local authority boundaries.
National co-ordinator, Mike Andrews, who is based at the unit, said with evidence from devices such as sat-navs and mobile phones would support investigations by local trading standards officers and regional scambuster teams.
He said the unit was set to prosecute an internet advertising scam where businesses had lost up to £15,000 and North Yorkshire and its neighbouring counties would benefit from the evidence they were gathering in the coming months.
Mr Andrews said: “One scam we will be looking at involves pop-up messages which claim a computer has a virus which lead people on a route to pay up to £1,000 for anti-virus software.
“In the past it has sometimes proved difficult to track online fraudsters down, but we have access to a number of different services and have a very high success rate.
“We could always do with more resources, but in these times of public sector austerity we will make the best use of those we have.”
The centre will also seek to warn consumers and businesses about different types of online frauds through its website tradingstandardsecrime.org.uk, and social media pages, twitter.com/tsecrime and facebook.com/tsecrime
The digital evidence unit, which is being based alongside North Yorkshire’s trading standards unit following a competitive bidding process, will work closely with the e-crime enforcement officers in York, to form the National Trading Standards e-Crime Centre.
Lord Toby Harris, chairman of the National Trading Standards Board, and member of both the House of Lords’ personal internet security and national security strategy committees, will open the unit on Monday (October 7).
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