There is new evidence that Hong Kong must pick up the pace in its fight against online deception. Police reported a surge in scams involving online shopping, employment and investment, as well as phone fraud, last year. The increase led to an overall 8.7 per cent jump in crime levels in 2022 compared with the year before. Some of the crime rate figures released earlier this month offered reason to take heart. Violent crime dropped by 7.9 per cent over the same period, and robberies and burglaries were at their lowest since records began in 1969. But Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu Chak-yee voiced alarm about the “very significant” increase in deception cases. There were 27,923 such cases last year, up 45 per cent from 2021 and amounting to nearly 40 per cent of the total number of crimes recorded. ‘Their fingers look fake’: ‘freaky’ promotion digits sink Chinese VIP yacht party About 70 per cent of the cases involved online scams. Siu said exposure to scams grew as more people went online during the Covid-19 pandemic, and he called for wider publicity to highlight the problem. Improved legislation and enforcement are already in the pipeline. The Law Reform Commission last year proposed five specific new offences meant to rein in cybercrime with tougher penalties. Police also upgraded their reporting system for cybercrimes and online scams with a new unit. But there are still far too many reports of bank accounts being cleared or people being drawn in by syndicates. The consequences can be financially or physically devastating and occasionally deadly. The rising number of online deception cases recorded by police indicates that the tide has not yet turned. Scammers are only likely to become more sophisticated. ‘She’s a scammer’: man stumbles on 300 credit cards in wife’s US$1.2 million con Everyone should do their part by staying alert and following best practices online. Better public education would be welcomed to raise awareness. Improved laws along with more enforcement resources, in cooperation with authorities on the mainland and abroad, are also needed to increase detection and make more arrests. Such prosecutions would send a message to would-be scammers that it is no longer open season in Hong Kong.