Worldwide swoop on net scammersThe OFT seeks to protect the public from web scams

28 March 2006

Thousands of websites are to be scrutinised over the next three days in a worldwide sweep for online scammers.

Fifty three consumer protection agencies from 21 countries - including the UK's - will take part in the joint initiative to hunt down the internet fraudsters.

Over 20 trading standards departments within the UK will also be taking part in the operation which will target home working scams.

There are three main types of scam home working scheme:

  • Directory schemes - these appear in e-mails as well as local and national press and shop windows. They ask for a fee of about GBP15 up front in exchange for a list of companies offering work to home workers. The recipient normally receives a photocopied sheet or leaflet, of other home working scheme adverts, charging from GBP 10 to GBP 200 to register with no genuine offers of work at the end.
  • Recruitment schemes - these ask for people to send GBP15 for information on home working opportunities. The recipients are then told to place more adverts in shop windows to recruit more people to the scheme, in order to receive a marginal sum for each new person recruited who also paid GBP 15. It is essentially a pyramid selling scheme that encourages people to con more victims.
  • Kit schemes - participants make arts and crafts products from kits provided by the advertiser on the understanding they will buy it back from the home worker when it is complete. The kits can cost from GBP 10 to GBP 200 but the end product will be rejected on the grounds that it has 'failed' the quality standards. The victim never makes any money from the scheme.

Mike Haley, Head of the OFT's Scambusters' team said: 'Bogus schemes are an increasing problem for those looking for genuine work to do at home. Like all scams the tell-tale sign to beware of is the fact that the company will ask for money up-front. You should never have to pay a fee to get paid work.'

The OFT's will also be launching several interactive scam games and two spoof website pages to demonstrate what scam sites might look like.

If you're concerned, take a look at our guides to spotting a scam, and what to do if you come across one