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Several million cases of fraud and of computer misuse are reported to the police every year. It's staggering, but even more staggering is that so many of those crimes could have been prevented by making a few small changes in online behaviour.
To avoid becoming a victim of online crime you don’t need to be a computer expert. Developing a few good online habits drastically reduces your chances of becoming a victim of cyber crime, makes you less vulnerable and lets you use the web safely.
Visit Cyber Aware for step-by-step instructions on keeping your devices up-to-date with the latest security updates, and for more online security advice.
Online fraud, also known as cyber crime, covers all crimes that:
Be careful when opening emails and texts, especially if you don't know the sender. If an email or text is unexpected or seems unusual, even if it’s from someone you know, ignore it and contact the sender directly to check if they sent it.
Your bank, the police and reputable companies will never ask for sensitive or financial details via email, phone or text.
To protect yourself from scams, known as 'phishing':
The sexualised phishing email tries to convince you that someone has compromised your computer, by listing some technical details, and recorded you visiting adult content websites. They haven't, it's just an attempt to scare you into paying money.
We've seen different methods used by fraudsters to try to make their attempts more believable. Some have included part of a password, if you haven't changed your password for a few years it might be your actual password. They get this from data breaches that have occurred.
Other attempts have included adding an attachment with 'proof' of the recording. It isn't proof but instead a document that contains ransomware that will encrypt all your files and demand payment to get them back.
If you receive one of these emails then don't worry, don't interact with it in any way, don't send any money or anything else in reply.
You can forward the email to the suspicious email reporting service run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). If the email contains links to malicious sites, the NCSC will take down or block those sites and seek to block the address it came from, so it can no longer send emails.
People use their devices for online dating, sometimes this can involve using webcams and cameras to send intimate pictures or videos. Sometimes the people you meet online aren't who they say they are – criminals also use these dating sites, befriending people online using a fake identity and persuading them to send intimate pictures, videos or perform sexual acts. These are recorded or saved by the criminals who then threaten to share the content with friends and family, unless you make a payment to them.
If you're a victim of sextortion, don't panic. Find out what you can do by reading the National Crime Agency's What is sextortion? and following the advice.
Social networks are a great way of keeping in touch with friends and family, but be careful about how much personal information you share.
Once you post or share something on any social media platform it’s out of your control and could be shared and used by others, even if you delete it.
Make sure you:
If an online offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. To help spot a fake site:
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that threatens to publish the victim's data or perpetually block access to it unless they pay a ransom.
Regularly back up all your documents and photos in at least one other place to minimise the risk of losing everything if you get a ransomware virus. You can back up data onto:
The internet lets children connect with friends and learn new things. But there are also dangers to going online, and children can be particularly vulnerable.
Talking to your child is one of the best ways to keep them safe online. By understanding the risks and keeping yourself up-to-date on the latest technology, websites and social networks you can help your child enjoy the internet safely and securely.
To help protect your children online:
If you are currently being subjected to a live and ongoing cyber-attack then please contact us on 101.
If you suspect you’ve been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime, the Action Fraud team can also provide the help, support and advice you need.
Call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 (textphone 0300 123 2050).
We recommend you check your privacy settings and stop people following you that you don’t know on Facebook.
You should also check your privacy settings on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
Action Fraud – the UK's national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre
Cyber Aware – essential advice on protecting yourself online
National Cyber Security Centre – helping to make the UK safer to live and do business in the UK
National cyber resilience centre group - a policing-led, not-for-profit organisation, protecting businesses from cyber related crime