The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is launching Operation Identity Shield, a new initiative aimed at fighting online fraud and identity theft.
According to press reports, the project is now in operation and has already resulted in a number of arrests. The scheme is one of a number of collaborations between the FBI and the technology industry.
Daniel Larkin, chief of the FBI's Internet Complaint Centre, told delegates at a conference in Las Vegas that the new initiative is an "evolution" of the bureau's anti-phishing scheme, Digital PhishNet, which was launched in 2004 in partnership with US banks, ISPs and technology firms.
Concerns about online fraud and identity theft are on the rise in the US. An estimated 3.6 million US households - around three per cent - fell victim to at least one type of identity theft during a six-month period in 2004, according to research by the US Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.
In June US regulators said they were considering introducing new rules that would require all banks to develop an identity theft prevention programme for customers that includes "red flags" to signal a possible risk of ID theft.