ITAA wants industry coalition to fight online scams

The Information Technology Association of America has announced that it is exploring the possibility of creating an industry coalition to combat the problem of internet fraud.

The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) has announced that it is exploring the possibility of creating an industry coalition to combat the problem of internet fraud.

The idea for the coalition was brought about, in part, by last week's online scam targeting Best Buy customers, according to the Arlington, Virginia-based organisation.

That scam involved an unauthorised and deceptive email that asked Best Buy customers for personal information, including their Social Security and credit card numbers. The Minneapolis-based retailer says the email, which had the words "Fraud Alert" in the subject line, claimed to be from the BestBuy.com fraud department but was not.

"The online fraud problem has gotten a lot of notoriety lately," says ITAA president Harris Miller. "And the more you see this kind of publicity, the more it discourages people who are not currently users of the internet for commercial transactions to go online."

If industry can't put together some effective responses, Miller says, the government will step in with what he described as unnecessary, inappropriate regulation that could hamper the ability of internet commerce to grow.

Miller says the ITAA is trying to bring together businesses and IT companies that conduct a lot of business online to craft proposals that would help give customers more security, convince government that regulation isn't necessary and limit some of the online fraud now occurring.

"The creation of a consortium to focus on online fraud and identity theft is a key component in keeping the online world safe for the global community," Howard Schmidt, former chairman of the White House Critical Infrastructure Protection Board and vice president of security at eBay, says in the statement. "Industry organising amongst ourselves is the right thing to do."

Miller says the ITAA has begun contacting companies and organisations interested in seeking educational, legal and technical solutions to protect consumers from online fraud and safeguard the future of e-business. But to be effective, such a coalition must also coordinate its efforts with the US Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice and local law enforcement agencies.

"Other things we might look to is to set up an electronic clearinghouse to share information among the companies and organisations," he says. "So if we began to see patterns of behaviour... they could share information and that way help to cut it off or share the information with law enforcement and assist them in moving against the [perpetrators]."

Miller says another idea would be to have an electronic bulletin board that would be sponsored by the coalition, or perhaps in conjunction with government, where consumers could go to find the latest information about internet scams.

"It's about sharing information, it's about education, and it's about collaborating with the appropriate law enforcement and consumer regulator bodies," says Miller, who added that the ITAA would take the summer to determine the interest in such a coalition before formalising its plans.

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