FTC urges House to reauthorize online fraud powers

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"The Act arms the FTC with key enforcement tools to combat Internet scams, fraudulent telemarketing, spam, spyware, and other cross-border misconduct that harms our consumers," Stevenson testified before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.

The law expands the types of fraud that the FTC can pursue, gives the agency the authority to share information about cross-border fraud with foreign governments and authorizes the agency to make criminal referrals if the activity violates U.S. criminal law.

Stevenson said the FTC has conducted more than 100 investigations with international aspects since the act's passage, and has filed more than 50 cases. He said the new powers have allowed the FTC to shut down frauds costing American consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.  

Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), the subcommittee's chairwoman, said she plans to introduce a bill soon to re-authorize the Safe Web Act.

She argued that the expanded powers are necessary because many online frauds are international in scope. Bono Mack also warned that without effective protections against online fraud, American consumers could stop doing business online, which would stifle economic growth.

"By any measure, the U.S. Safe Web Act has been a clear success to date and should be reauthorized before its expiration next year," she said.