Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


SEATTLE - Attorney General Christine Gregoire today joined Federal Trade Commission officials to announce the filing of more than two dozen Internet-fraud enforcement actions by 14 different agencies from western states and two Canadian provinces.

The sweep culminates an effort started 18 months ago when the FTC provided training for consumer protection agencies from Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Wyoming, British Columbia and Alberta.

Remarks for
Attorney General Christine Gregoire
For presentation to
FTC press conference on Joint Internet "Sweep"
April 2, 2002

On an average week, more than 30 consumers file online complaints with my office about internet-related scams.

Some say they failed to receive merchandise they ordered through online auctions, or were suckered by shill bids that drove the prices up.

And others, like the victim we will hear from in a moment, tell of loved ones suffering from killer diseases who focused their last hopes on unproven cures pitched like snake oil on the Internet.

What's startling is the fact that those 30 are in addition to the more than 100 complaints we get from people tired of sorting through the legal and illegal spam clogging their mailboxes.

Cyberspace is a wondrous place, but we are quickly learning that it can also be a dangerous place for the unwary.

Con artists who once relied on telephone boiler rooms and mass mailings can now rip people off through websites and e-mail.

While the scams are often very familiar, use of the Internet creates some major new challenges for consumer protection organizations.

That's why it's so important that those of us who enforce state, provincial and national consumer protection laws work together to meet these new challenges.

I want thank the Federal Trade Commission for taking the lead on this regional internet sweep and especially for providing support, training and expertise.

By working together, we are bringing the two traditional consumer protection tools-education and enforcement-to the world of Internet commerce.

Simply reminding businesses that they must obey the law is one of the easiest ways to curb questionable practices on the Internet.

The warning letters going to spammers who promote chain-distribution schemes are an example of how this objective can be accomplished.

These letters from the FTC and co-signed by a member of my staff make it clear that we will not allow the internet to be a vehicle for promoting one of the oldest scams in the book.

Of course, one of the most effective tools in the fight against Internet fraud is consumer and business education.

The materials the FTC has unveiled here this morning will give consumers useful information about things they can do to avoid becoming victims.

They will be a helpful addition to the information already available concerning business practices on the Internet.

Finally, on the enforcement front, I want to briefly mention four Internet cases our office has filed alleging violations of Washington's Consumer Protection Act.

In the first case, we allege that a company called Discount Brass sold musical instruments through online auctions and delivered inferior and damaged goods. They also abused consumers who complained to them.

The second case concerns a company called Epipo, which promised to pay consumers to view advertising on their personal computers.

Unfortunately, they changed the rules to make it virtually impossible for anyone to collect.

Today we are also announcing partial settlement in another case - against Bremerton-based SJ Gabel -- which used the internet to promote a work- at-home scheme that was really an illegal pyramid scheme.

Finally, we are working closely with the FTC to close down one of the most egregious cases of fraud we've found on the Internet.

David l. Walker of Olympia uses the Internet to pitch a scientifically suspect and unproven cure to seriously ill cancer patients.

In a moment, Mr. Fulton will tell you more about the personal impact this scam has had on his family.

In conclusion, these efforts illustrate the importance and effectiveness of cooperating to bring law and order to cyberspace.

We will continue to work together to see that the Internet is a safe place for consumers and an effective place to conduct legitimate business.

Thank you.