The Fraud Prevention project is a series of education campaigns run every year by ICPEN countries under one theme but focusing on an issue relevant to each individual participating agency.
Through this initiative we educate market participants about scams and furnish them with appropriate information on how to protect themselves from falling prey to unfair businesses.
What do we focus on in particular? We have addresses such topics as:
• deceptive and aggressive retail tactics used to lure consumers into an agreement,
• identity theft,
• misleading advertising,
• legal requirements concerning pricing information and labeling,
• online shopping,
• false lottery and business directories,
• health fraud.
Often our campaigns target particular audiences including the young, the elderly, small businesses and charities, and have a range of community, non-government, and private sector organizations as partners.
For this year’s World Consumer Rights Day, several Austrian consumer protection bodies engaged in information and awareness raising campaigns on selected topics such as e.g. consumers’ online rights or practical and legal advice on travelling. For example, the European Consumer Centre Austria, together with the “Verein für Konsumenteninformation” (Consumer Information Association, VKI), hosted an information event for schools, which also covered the topic chosen for this year’s ICPEN Fraud Prevention Month, “Internet Scams”.
Regarding the topic of the FPM 2017, the “Watchlist Internet” has issued a press release in which consumers are provided with tips on how to best protect themselves from the tricks of online scammers. In that respect, detailed information is especially given on an online subscription trap that has already been problematic for Austrian consumers for some time now: Websites give the impression to offer route planning services for free. However, after consumers register on the website, it is claimed that the registration led to a 24-month subscription for 500 €. Consumers who refuse to pay are confronted with dunning letters threatening with legal action and/or the seizure of their personal belongings. Consumer bodies are of the legal opinion that there is no valid contract concluded in these cases as there is no effective agreement between the parties and the requirements for “online payment buttons” of the Austrian Act for distance and off-premises contracts are not met. The press release also included a reference to ICPEN’s Fraud Prevention Month.
The “Watchlist Internet” (www.watchlist-internet.at) is a project by the “Austrian Institute for Applied Telecommunications” (Österreichisches Institut für angewandte Telekommunikation, ÖIAT) that aims to raise consumers’ awareness towards online fraud and fraud-like traps. The ”Watchlist Internet” offers independent and cost-free information on recent cases of internet-fraud, provides tips for effective prevention policies and shows how typical fraud-methods are working.
During the month of March the FPS Economy spread via social media (twitter and facebook) 5 videos in which consumers were warned of fraud in relation to:
1. Fake lotteries
2. Subscription traps
3. Resale of tickets
4. Hacking of Facebook profiles
5. False business directories
Republic of Korea
Korea Consumer Agency conducted the 2016 Fraud Prevention Month campaign involving three methods mentioned below to raise consumer awareness on fraudulent cases of e-commerce pricing.
1. Webtoon Contest: the KCA held a webtoon contest for citizens themed on introduction of fraudulent e-commerce pricing (Drip pricing and Subscription traps) cases and precautionary measures to promote the month of fraud prevention.
- KCA promoted a webtoon contest through its official website, contest promotion website, social media, press, and promoted to related departments and clubs in universities.
2. Informative Contents: To improve understanding of webtoon contest theme, the KCA updated postings on fraud cases such as prices of overseas package tour, online shopping mall advertising, and automatically paid small amount cellular phone bill through Facebook page.
3. Public Event: the KCA launched an event in regards to information posted on the Facebook to attract participation of citizens.
Germany introduced the “payment button” to fight subscription traps on the internet: A law which prevents online vendors from using the small print to hide the fact that a service is not free of charge. Buyers must actively agree to the purchase by clicking on the payment button labelled with the words “order with obligation to pay” or a similar phrase, otherwise no contract is concluded. The German Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection participated in the Fraud Prevention Month 2016 with an explanatory film on the payment button and other information for consumers on cost traps on the internet.
This year’s campaign of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv) focused on the enforcement of Art. 8 Abs. 2 RL 2011/83/EU (“order with obligation to pay” button). In February 2016, the vzbv was successful with an action brought against Amazon for offering a 30-day free trial of its Prime service using an order button labelled “Jetzt gratis testen – danach kostenpflichtig” (“Try for free now – incurs costs afterwards”). The Court deemed that the order button was misleading and failed to make sufficiently clear to customers that they would have to pay for the service. The verdict is not yet binding.
The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority participated in the ICPEN Fraud Prevention Month 2016 with a focus on drip pricing. Our aim was to reach both consumers and traders via as many channels as possible.
Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) conducted ICPEN Fraud Prevention Month (FPM) in May 2016. During FPM, CAA uploaded on its website a public advertisement which was related to protecting consumers from fraudulent or malicious business practices, including efforts which relevant government authorities had made for protecting consumers.
In the same month (May), CAA implemented “Consumer Month” in which consumers, businesses and governments jointly and intensively conducted awareness and educational activities for consumers. “Consumer Month” consisted of various events and programs, such as symposium and many other enlightenment activities. To raise consumer’s awareness of FPM, we conducted it in the same period as “Consumer Month”, with the main page of FPM linking to the top page of “Consumer Month”.
Every year in March, the consumer protection agencies in the ICPEN participate in Fraud Prevention Month. The aim is to educate consumers around the world about different issues, so that they know how to protect themselves and make informed choices.
The 2016 theme is the misleading advertising of prices online. ICPEN is focusing on two different areas: ‘drip pricing’ (unanticipated fees and charges) in the travel and tourism sector and subscription traps (also referred to as negative options or continuity plans).
FPM 2016 materials
- Trampas por suscripción (spanish): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn8fZUT7Dlg
- Suscription Traps (english): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4LH4qsYHuE
- Precio por goteo (spanish): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soLEjbjA2BM
- Drip Pricing (english): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2XG5aTL5Cg
For further information see blog link below.
Republic of Korea
Korea Consumer Agency conducted the 2015 Fraud Prevention Month during April so as to prevent consumers from e-transaction. We arranged 3 kinds of themes for the campaign as follow.
1. Campaign promotion; In order to enhance the awareness of the annual campaign, the KCA promoted it through Facebook, KCA website, and consumer magazine, etc.
2. Informative content; KCA gave consumers informative contents about case of fraudulent consumer damages related to e-transactions, for example unjust refusal of withdrawal rights in the internet shopping malls and overseas diverse purchases, etc.
3. Third, the KCA conducted an event to attract participation from people. We held the event to fill in the blank related to FPM and awarded selected participants a number of gifts.
During this year’s Fraud Prevention Month, the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection devoted its efforts to an information and awareness raising campaign on selected e-commerce topics and relating problems and risks.
The aim of the project was to give consumers information on current e-commerce-related topics such as online comparison tools, online fraud, counterfeit brand products and cybercrime related to social media platforms (e.g. data theft).
During the campaign a five-part series of articles was published on our website www.konsumentenfragen.at in the second half of March. The articles provided consumers with general information about the above-mentioned topics and mainly focused on pointing out the risks and dangers for consumers shopping online. Moreover consumers were given advice on how to protect themselves against these risks in advance and on who they can turn to for help if they fall victim to online fraudsters or other types of cybercrime. The campaign also included an online quiz which provided consumers with the opportunity to check their knowledge on e-commerce and online crime.
The German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety issued a press release in which consumers are informed and warned about cost traps relating to smartphone apps.
The aim was to make consumers more sensitive about the fact that advantages that come with the use of (especially free-to-download) smartphone apps often involve hidden costs, such as in-app purchases, or come at the price of collecting personal data. This applies in particular to vulnerable consumers, such as children.
Consumers are given several tips on how they can protect themselves against malpractice with apps. They are admonished to check app permissions and potential in-app purchases. Furthermore, they are advised to use prepaid payment cards and install anti-virus protection software.