Sir Tim Berners-Lee, one of the founding fathers of the internet, has revealed that he has been the victim of online fraud whilst trying to buy a Christmas gift.

Sir Tim, who first published the idea of creating the web as an easy means of sharing electronic data 20 years ago this month, revealed to the Daily Telegraph that he had been conned when trying to buy a Christmas present. It was only when the item didn’t arrive that he realised that he had been conned.

The scam came to light as Sir Tim was preparing to speak at the Web Science 09 event, where he is expected to express concerns over online security.

“The worst thing that has happened to me was when I tried to buy a Christmas present from a company that looked like a bona fide company on the internet and then actually they were a completely fake company,” he told the Telegraph. “I think I am yet to get the money back, but it wasn’t a lot.

“The moment I called the 0800 number listed on the website, there was a very polite message saying this number is available if you would like to use it, so a little bit of due diligence on my part would have revealed it wasn’t what it was set up to be.”

Sir Tim said he felt that international agreements were needed to ensure that those involved in online crime didn’t escape punishment.

He said: “There have been many positive things about the web, but there are also some nasty things out there too. You can find out how to cure diseases, but you can also find out how to make bombs.

“Sometimes we need new laws, but in other cases we need to realise that old laws can still be applied to the web.

“We need to tackle issues of enforcement instead, as the laws on fraud, for example, already exist but is hard to find and catch the people responsible.”

He added: “There is a lot of malicious traffic that is viruses talking to each other. When a virus infects somebody’s machine they make programmes that send out emails, which are the bane of the internet and is responsible for much of the spam.

“I personally feel that if you have systems that allow you to isolate the infected systems and cut them off until they have been disinfected, it would be a way of preserving service for everyone else.

“It would reduce the amount of spam by a huge amount and making the internet a place where viruses don’t thrive.”

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