Chatter: On Tuesday, I got an email from a company I’ve been dealing with to set some vacation transportation plans. The first line of the message read: “Cybercrime is an ever-present challenge to individuals and businesses alike.”

My first reaction to this warning was to heartily agree. My second reaction was to be suspicious. Was this message truly from the real company or was it a counterfeit crafted by an unseen scammer across town or across the country or on the other side of the planet? Could warning about cybercriminals actually be a method of lulling me into unwarranted trust? Was this an elaborate deception that could separate me from my hard-earned dollars?

Sadly, that is what we have come to in the third decade of the 21st century; feeling wary every time an unfamiliar number pops up on our cellphones, scrutinizing every text or email from anyone who is not family or a close friend.

In the good old days, thieves had to work harder. They would physically break into our cars or our homes or put on a mask and rob a bank. It was troubling when it happened, but, unless one lived in an especially crime-ridden neighborhood, burglaries, car prowling and bank robberies were rare events. Now, with all of us conducting so many aspects of our lives on phones and computers, we are under constant assault by nefarious characters who are trying to invade our personal territory to steal from us. We can ignore their calls and delete their texts and feel smugly street-wise, but we know they will not stop prodding and poking, looking for weaknesses in our defenses.

These crooks scamper like cyber rats in the shadows of the high-tech netherworld. They prey on the naive, the gullible, the vulnerable among us. Their scams work often enough to make their crimes pay very well. They are worse than the solitary crooks who occasionally slink past our homes because they are ubiquitous, invisible and more elusive than even the wiliest cat burglar.

Where are the cybercops when you need them?

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