By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Cybercrime finds victims worldwide

Cybercrime, ranging from minor irritations to financial devastation, is rampant worldwide.

Cybercriminals don’t know you, and wouldn’t care if they did. They are faceless, nameless scourges of humanity who every year steal trillions of dollars by invading and violating our personal and business lives.

Here’s one tiny example from last week:

By chance, I checked a seldom-used bank account with a debit card that never left my wallet and hadn’t been used for six months. There were four fraudulent debit card purchases, and when I called it in, a banking representative blurted out, “This is happening to everyone.”

Untold millions of people create dotted lines to criminal syndicates through use of credit and debit cards; online banking; emails with unprotected files; cell phone location-trackers; scam email links; lazy login security; online accounts and shopping transactions.

Cybercrime Magazine estimates that the annual worldwide cost of computer-based crime will reach $10.5 trillion in 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015. The FBI reports there were almost 850,000 U.S. cybercrime complaints in 2021, acknowledging that many more go unreported.

Complaints range from common phishing attacks to complex data breaches, from ID theft to extortion. Cybercriminals actually can monitor a high-finance transaction online, and surreptitiously insert themselves at key times to redirect a payment transfer.

Cybercriminals lock down and demand ransom to release personal and business databases; they sell easily harvested personal information to fellow criminals worldwide; they prey on vulnerable people but find there is plenty of vulnerability throughout the population.

Unfortunately, the most dangerous characteristic for many people is trust.

Don’t click suspicious links; don’t give personal information to strangers; check all financial accounts regularly for fraud; look up and follow other tips for avoiding cybercrime. And please, don’t reveal your first pet’s name on Facebook when that’s a security question for financial account access.

If you do all of that, and more, guess what? You still will be targeted; you still can be victimized. And just over the horizon there are growing risks from fraudulent uses of deep-fake images and artificial intelligence as part of intricate cybercrime operations.

I wish I had better advice to give, but despite trying to be vigilant over the years, I’ve had bank accounts compromised, emails stolen, databases breached and computer files held for ransom. The unfortunate reality is, cyberspace is a dangerous place where criminals run amok and society pays the huge price.

So, let’s try to be careful out there.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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