The European Commission has launched an EU-wide crackdown on cross-border scams such as phoney lotteries and bogus holiday clubs and on companies abusing consumer-protection rules.
The clampdown on fraudsters, who scam consumers for billions of euro every year and are increasingly operating via the internet, will be co-ordinated by the EU’s 27 national enforcement bodies under a new directive.
National authorities have been given cross-border powers, under the enforcement co-operation regulation, to combat criminals who operate in different counries from their victims, via onsite inspections, fines, court action and asset freezing.
The new Bulgarian Consumer Affairs Commissioner, Meglena Kuneva, is drawing up a pan-European strategy to give consumers greater rights and protection, and announced the measures on 28 February 2007.
She said: “Con artists are using mass emails or false promises of big earnings to trap vulnerable people. The fraudsters are clever, taking advantage of different legal systems across the EU to target their victims. Their crafty schemes, such as personalising letters and making them look professional, are costing EU consumers billions of euros and, in the UK alone, more than 3 million adults fall victim to scams each year, costing each one on average £1,000 (€1,500).”
The fraudulent schemes include bogus holiday clubs, international prize draws, lottery and sweepstake frauds, so-called clairvoyant mailings, miracle health and slimming cures, as well as foreign money offers, often from Africa, and loans and investment schemes, almost a third of victims fall for subsequent scams because they are placed on a “suckers list”.
Kuneva urged those who have fallen prey to a cross-border fraudster to report their case to a European consumer centre.