As the Reagan administration was deregulating the Federal Trade Commission this decade, the Idaho Legislature repeatedly refused to fund a consumer-protection agency, making the state an easy mark for scams.

But with both a consumer-protection bureau and a Better Business Bureau of Eastern Idaho now established, shysters are finding the going rough, says Kathryn Jones, executive director of the regional Better Business Bureau."We've had suppliers tell business people they are having a more difficult time here," she said. "All frauds are not perpetrated against consumers. A lot are against businesses."

Based on the thousands of complaints her office has fielded in 12 months, she estimates that schemes perpetrated in the region cost individuals an average of $2,025. Or, to put it another way, the rip-offs cost the region's economy at least $10.5 million annually.

Although the bureau has operated in Boise for years, the eastern Idaho bureau was chartered in July 1987, at the same time as the state revived its consumer-protection bureau. Together, Jones believes, they will stop shady operations.

"Every other state beefed up its consumer protection. We were the only one without any consumer protection or Better Business Bureau, and every con artist in the country knew it," she said.