California tops in Internet complaints

Legal News Line Aug. 14, 2008, 6:30am

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-Californians are the most frequent victims of Internet crime and complaints according to a new Federal Trade Commission report that stems from data provided by the attorney general's office.

California collected 8,622 individual complaints on Internet-related fraud in 2007, according to a story first reported by the San Jose Mercury News. The amount of complaints far exceeds all other states, including runner-up New York that had slightly more than half the number of complaints as California.

According to data from the California attorney general's office, complaints were filed over a diverse number of reasons including identity theft, spam, disputes with service providers and e-mail scams designed to discover personal information.

In 2007, the FTC report said nearly a quarter of a million complaints were lodged nationwide, the Center for Democracy and Technology said.

Most states have neglected to bring significant cases as a result of these complaints, the press release states, with most of the cases brought by attorneys general focused on sexual enticement of minors and child pornography.

"These numbers are startling, but they may even understate the problem," said Reece Rushing, director of regulatory and information policy at the Center for American Progress. "Consumers are often unaware, and thus may not report, when they are victimized by online threats such as spyware or phishing. We must take action against these threats to protect consumers and preserve confidence in Internet commerce."

The FTC report highlights an area of needed attention, according to the Center for Democracy and Technology.

"Online consumers are now at risk," said Ari Schwartz, vice president and chief operating officer at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

"Internet crime costs basically nothing to execute, can be highly lucrative, and involves little risk of being caught and punished. We need all 50 state attorneys general focused on this problem. Through committed action and vigorous enforcement, they can provide a powerful and much needed deterrent," he added.

The Center for Democracy and Technology is a nonpartisan research and educational institute, according to its Web site, dedicated to finding progressive solutions to modern domestic problems.

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