THE hidden world of cyber crime can appear complex and confusing to those without specialist knowledge of the subject, but its unmistakable growing impact on our lives has been succinctly summarised by West Yorkshire Police chief constable Dee Collins: “We are all potential targets”.
The troubling findings uncovered by this paper as part of a four-month investigation back up her assertions. In parts of the county, reports of internet crimes such as online fraud have more than doubled in the past 12 months, with police warning they face an uphill battle in catching criminals who can be based anywhere in the world. The true scale of online crime is believed to be far higher than even the official statistics suggest, with the National Crime Agency warning that huge levels of under-reporting mean it struggles to fully understand how criminals are operating online.
Most concerning is the evidence of children as young as nine from Yorkshire being sucked into the dangerous online underworld. On six occasions in the past three years, South Yorkshire Police have dropped investigations after discovering their suspects were under the age of criminal responsibility.
In this age of social media containing huge levels of detail and the ever-growing reliance on online banking, taking steps to secure our personal data is paramount.