[EDITORIAL]

Deleting cyber cheats

When Singapore's overall crime rate dipped to a 30-year low two years ago, few would have expected it to keep tanking - not when cybercrime is sprouting worldwide. Sure enough, the main reason for the uptick in crime here last year was due to more offences linked to the online world. That should ring warning bells, and no doubt it will among those who heed caution. But, alas, a good many will continue to fall victim to online cheating, even when telltale signs of dishonesty abound and ruses are as old as the hills. Fraudsters tend to stick with routines, like frozen bank accounts in Nigeria, as it's time-efficient to quickly sift out cynics and zero in on the gullible.

Seeking justice over cyber offences is complicated when the crime trail is expansive and crosses borders; the police face difficulties in tracing culprits lurking in the Darknet, networks of secretive websites; and criminal organisations are involved, working in cahoots with wily technology professionals. Potential victims, therefore, are much on their own and have to be extra vigilant to avoid the "Venus flytrap" lures in cyberspace.

Love scams, for example, have an insidious way of taking hold - via online chats that disarm victims with beguiling words (often associated with scammers in the Philippines). The number rose by 143 per cent last year and $8.8 million was lost. Age might not offer protection - a large proportion of those duped were aged between 35 and 60 - and it might even be a liability, as perhaps it was for a 74-year-old woman who was similarly taken in.

Hence, the community should seek ways to spread information about different forms of online financial crimes like phony PayPal e-mail, scams involving multiple online payments, cyber extortion and phishing. Whether young or old, all need to be made aware of the perils.