Federal and state law enforcement authorities said Tuesday they had taken action against 19 Internet-based scams that they say collectively bilked consumers out of millions of dollars.
Work-at home schemes, auction fraud, deceptive use of junk e-mail, securities fraud and other schemes were targeted by a broad Internet law-enforcement effort including state attorneys general, local law enforcement authorities and a passel of federal agencies.
Several cases have been settled already, with punishments ranging from seven-year jail sentences to agreements by defendants to stop their schemes.
While many of the perpetrators live in the Midwest, the crimes targeted consumers nationwide through junk e-mail solicitations or fraud on eBay, Yahoo and other popular Internet auction sites, according to a spokeswoman for the Federal Trade Commission.
In one case, a Florida company named Stuffingforcash.com told consumers they could earn up to $2,000 per week stuffing envelopes at home after paying an initial $45 deposit, but then failed to send the promised envelope-stuffing materials.
The scheme likely cheated tens of thousands of customers out of more than $2 million over the past year, the FTC said in court filings.
Auction fraud was a common charge. In a typical case, the Illinois attorney general charged Chicago resident Tim Engle with advertising merchandise for sale on eBay but failing to provide the goods after payment was received.
The head of the FTC's consumer-protection division said the Internet enabled scam artists to reach a wider audience than before.
"Scams on the Internet spread very quickly," said the FTC's Howard Beales. "That's why the FTC and our partners are moving aggressively to shut these schemes down."