National Consumer Protection Week during March 1 – 7, 2009

 

When people in the USA are observing National Consumer Protection Week during March 1 – 7, 2009 and Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce has organised ‘National Consumer Fraud Week’ from March 02 – 08, 2009 in Australia, I trust this post should prove useful. Together, let us try to save as many vulnerable netizens as possible, as quickly as possible and in as many ways as possible.

 

You do not need any introductions to online crimes and e-SCAMs. “Losses being incurred as a result of cyber crime are increasing at an alarming rate and now we have reached a point where people are more fearful of being a victim of cyber crime than they are affected from physical crime”, according to blogs.  In the USA, FBI records indicate that there was an increase of 25% in the money lost during 2005 – 2007 due to online fraud. While Australians have been losing roughly half-a-million dollars a month in 2005, it has been reported that we lost about a million a month in 2006 and about 36 million a year in 2007. Over the last 12 months, the Australian law enforcing agencies have reportedly seen an alarming 60 per cent increase in the number of complaints and inquires about scams, with a 67 per cent increase in people reporting money lost. That increase is no accident and does not appear to be slowing anytime soon according to security analysts and press reports.

 

It’s getting tough to borrow money too. With the credit crunch, small businesses and individuals have been turning to alternate lending sources for getting access to much needed funds for survival. And it is so easy to fall prey to the scammers who offer fake loans. The global financial crisis has significantly increased the chances of Australians falling victim to fraud during 2009, according to Mr Peter Kell, Chairman of the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce. The misery of anyone who loses job will often be compounded if his/her efforts to find a job make him/her fall to the scammers’ designs. The chain reaction so generated could end up costing our community a great extent. As unemployment rises, incomes shrink and the benefits of the government’s rebates and incentives under the economic rescue package(s) disappear, as responsible members of the community, we may automatically be inclined to claw back our spending, yet looking for more money from any source that one can find. That too in turn may make us more vulnerable to falling into the hands of scammers.

 

There are all sorts of e-mail SCAMs and they reach us under every conceivable pretext. Scammers lead their target(s) to believe that they have won millions from a non-existent lottery; landed a lucrative job but nothing more than collectors of money for the scammers; or secured a loan, grant, bursary, scholarship or financial assistance on unbelievably attractive terms despite without any paperwork until then.

 

The victims are generally believed to be naïve, technically illiterate or overly trusting. But this is not true. People from all walks of life fall victim to SCAMs. To make matters worse, most people still don’t think it will happen to them. People generally do not ‘care’ about either, until they or anyone they know, fall victim. It is sometimes difficult too, to convince a potential victim that what he/she was relying on was just a SCAM. So much has been built into the business of SCAMs globally and any inertia to recognise these facts and/or delay in creating sufficient awareness among our community through coordinated efforts could keep more people falling victim. So, the question is: As responsible members of our community what can we do to help our fellow netizens before criminals go to whatever lengths they can to trick the most vulnerable people amongst us?

 

We may refer them to umpteen advisories, blogs or web sites as usual. There are commercial products offering varying degrees of security too. However, the efficacy of those solutions depends on the ‘awareness’ of the user concerned, because you have to take the call ultimately on what is a real deal and what is a potentially fraudulent product or service. Our efforts to educate our community have not been very effective so far, if news reports are anything to go by. One can’t really prevent people falling victim to online SCAMs without adequately educating the community. It is also true that creating awareness alone won’t solve all incidents of people losing money from SCAMs. But adequate awareness when created among people, they will consciously seek the benefit of all other tools such as advisories and technology.

 

Please feel free to contact me for any further information and/or clarifications. Also please feel free to pass this message around.

 

Thank you.

K P Manikantan

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