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Web designers alert to fraud

A NEW website is aiming to provide an online solution for businesses affected by fraud.

WA Police Service figures for 2000-2001 indicate that 20 fraud offences are committed in WA every day, causing significant misery and inconvenience to small business.

The fraud prevention reporting and information website has been a while coming, but now has almost reached the end of an extensive testing period, with a founding members’ trial period ending next month.

Website developer and Australasian Business Alliance project manager Graham Harvey said he had the idea in 1998 after observing the high incidence of credit card fraud, despite checking services offered by banks.

Both credit and debit cards were often not reported stolen, and cheques also were proving a big problem.

Mr Harvey easily found colleagues who agreed it “grated” to see businesses suffer and perpetrators get away with it.

Though in-house prevention schemes operated within large national and international companies, those involved in the website project could see a chance to prevent a lot of fraud by gathering as much detail as possible about single incidences, and then broadcasting these to others likely to be similarly affected.

After running the concept past a few businesses, the idea to alert potential victims of the activities of local fraudulent operators became substance, with the initial site development in late 2000.

Mr Harvey said the monitored site, ausalliance.com, not only allowed businesses to enter details of suspect clients and trans-actions, but it also sent out alerts to its members.

Late last year an alert was issued, giving the description of a man attempting to use counterfeit $50 notes for purchases worth less than $1 from small retailers, supermarkets and service stations.

ausalliance, for which membership is currently charged at $40 per month, is aimed at businesses in the accommodation and mid-size retail industries – whitegoods, electronic equipment hire, vehicle rental, jewellery, hardware, mobile phone and computer.

For the accommodation industry, the website allows members to enter specific details of separate incidents for each of the following categories: fraud, room skip, stolen guest’s property, stolen business property by guest, room damage and drug use/prostitution by guest.

While still finalising issues such as privacy constraints, Australasian Business Alliance is looking ahead.

The group is checking out the feasibility of extending the network to include supermarkets and service stations, and of adding a police and loss adjustor reporting service.

Partnerships with police services and the financial and insurance industries also are envisaged, and the site has been developed to accommodate eastern states clients once the WA alliance is established.

Apart from domain registration and ISP costs, financial output has been negligible to date and relationships forged during the site development are helping provide sponsorship.

However, Mr Harvey said the focus for now remained on building an alliance of businesses that can be forewarned by feeding back the information they provide in alert, database and bulletin form.

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