Suspicion the best defence, say police

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 July, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 July, 1999, 12:00am

A rising number of con artists are capitalising on the speed and anonymity of the Internet, international police warn.

They said that as it was often difficult for crime-busters to catch the culprits, the best protection for consumers was to be wary when asked to hand over money.

Detective Constable Martin Woods of the British National Crime Squad said fraudsters spread their activities between jurisdictions, and aimed for areas where banking secrecy laws worked in their favour.

'There will always be people operating this fraud - it's a matter of stopping people becoming victims,' said Detective Woods.

Senior Superintendent Peter Else of the Commercial Crime Bureau in Hong Kong said: 'You're going to see an increase in this type of thing with the Internet. You can make it appear you're in any part of the world you like.

'And it's very difficult to know that someone who claims to be in Wall Street is actually working from some back alley in the British Virgin Islands.' Detective Woods said potential investors should demand to know the background of their 'brokers', check public records offices on companies before buying and be suspicious.

He said there was scope for better co-operation between international police forces, but the conmen were leaving very few clues and while investigators were doing their best, 'law enforcement is not some kind of magic wand'.

'The fraudster is well aware that the international arena's where to be because by the time the police catch up, the criminals have moved on,' he said.