Government to fight theft of personal data

Con artists who target internet users via phishing sites and email scams are set to come under fire from the government after new funding and powers were announced to help combat the growing threat posed to consumers.

Online fraud and scams are believed to cost UK citizens over 3.5 billion each year according to government statistics. Particularly worrying is the news that the cost of this is shared by just 3 million people, which means that some are experiencing significant losses as a result.

A report authored by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has shown that 73 per cent of UK residents were targeted via spam in 2009. As a result, Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan has announced the creation of a new task force to tackle cyber crime in all of its forms, as well as providing further funding for Trading Standards to help with the fight.

Mr Brennan said that internet shopping had altered the spending habits of UK consumers and that although online commerce was a positive experience for the vast majority, it could all too easily be harnessed by criminals looking to exploit unsuspecting shoppers.

New funding from the government will help multiple groups of specialists to provide training and technology in order to assist a wider audience in the fight against fraud online.

Over the next 3 years Mr Brennan said that 4.3 million was being invested by the government in order to better approach the protection of consumer data and private information.

The OFT is also set to focus its attention on a range of online scams, including fake product and ticket rackets. Those websites that are set up to mislead consumers into making a purchase and thus parting with sensitive personal and credit card details are going to be rooted out by the task force.

OFT director Heather Clayton said that her organisation was prioritising increased consumer protection from the criminal fraternity. She added that building confidence in online shopping was a key goal.

The OFT will be working with the police and various international organisations in order to improve data security and the protection of consumers from an increasingly sophisticated range of threats.

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