Youths told to beware of chat room sex pests

Young people have been warned to steer clear of Internet chat rooms, which police say are increasingly being used by sex pests.

Police computer specialists said yesterday chat rooms had become a new breeding ground for sex crimes, with young and inexperienced people most vulnerable.

'A new area of concern is the use of ICQ and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) - two different Internet chat formats,' Commercial Crime Bureau chief superintendent Lo Yik-kee said.

He said the anonymity of the chat rooms often caught out young people who were not experienced enough to make character judgments.

Exact figures on such Internet-related crimes are not available because they are filed under sex crimes. But the bureau points to several well-publicised cases.

In April, Toby Acton, 28, was jailed for 14 months after having sex with a girl, 13, whom he met online. Last November, a stalker who was never caught posted pictures of two near-naked Hong Kong University students on a chat room.

Legco information technology representative Sin Chung-kai called on parents to monitor their children using ICQ to make friends.

Police have recorded 228 computer-related crimes this year, compared with 34 for the whole of last year.

To combat the rise in cyber-crimes, Mr Lo said more than 80 computer-trained officers would be deployed to district and divisional police stations across the SAR from next week. The bureau is also calling for legal changes to strengthen law enforcement in cyberspace.