If you’re the victim of cybercrime, you need to know what to do and respond quickly.
The Realities of Cybercrime
When dealing with cybercrime, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Cybercrime in all its many forms (e.g., online identity theft, financial fraud, stalking, bullying, hacking, e-mail spoofing, information piracy and forgery, intellectual property crime, and more) can, at best, wreak havoc in victims’ lives through major inconvenience and annoyance. At worst, cybercrime can lead to financial ruin and potentially threaten a victim’s reputation and personal safety.
It’s always wise to do as much as possible to prevent cybercrime..
But, despite our best efforts, our increasingly digital lives may put us in harm’s way. The fact remains that the bad guys continue to find new uses for ever-expanding—but easily accessible—online technologies to steal, harass, and commit all sorts of crime. If cybercrime happens to you, you need to know what to do and to respond quickly.
Should I Report Cybercrime?
Cybercrime can be particularly difficult to investigate and prosecute because it often crosses legal jurisdictions and even international boundaries. And, many offenders disband one online criminal operation—only to start up a new activity with a new approach—before an incident even comes to the attention of the authorities.
The good news is that the Police have become more sophisticated about and devoting more resources to responding to and reporting on cybercrime.
Who to contact:
0300 123 2040
Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime. You can report a fraud to Action Fraud any time of the day or night using their online fraud reporting tool.
Collect and Keep Evidence
Even though you may not be asked to provide evidence when you first report the cybercrime, it is very important to keep any evidence you may have related to your complaint. Keep items in a safe location in the event you are requested to provide them for investigative or prosecutive evidence. Evidence may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Canceled checks
- Certified or other mail receipts
- Chatroom or newsgroup text
- Credit card receipts
- Envelopes (if you received items via FedEx, UPS, or UK Mail)
- Log files, if available, with date, time and time zone
- Messages from Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites
- Money order receipts
- Pamphlets or brochures
- Phone bills
- Printed or preferably electronic copies of emails (if printed, include full email header information)
- Printed or preferably electronic copies of web pages
- Wire receipts
Additional Tips for Specific Types of Cybercrime
Once you discover that you have become a victim of cybercrime, your response will depend, to some degree, on the type and particular circumstances of the crime. Here are useful tips to follow for some specific types of cybercrimes: –
In cases of identity theft:
Make sure you change your passwords for all online accounts. When changing your password, make it long, strong and unique, with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. You also may need to contact your bank and other financial institutions to freeze your accounts so that the offender is not able to access your financial resources. Close any unauthorised or compromised credit or charge accounts. Cancel each credit and charge card. Get new cards with new account numbers. Inform the companies that someone may be using your identity, and find out if there have been any unauthorized transactions. Close accounts so that future charges are denied. You may also want to write a letter to the company so there is a record of the problem. Think about what other personal information may be at risk.
You may need to contact other agencies depending on the type of theft. For example, if you feel that your National Insurance number may be being used for purposes other than it was designed then you should contact Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) immediately and report your suspicions.
If your personal information has been stolen through a corporate data breach (when a cyber thief hacks into a large database of accounts to steal information, such as National Insurance numbers, home addresses, and personal email addresses), you will likely be contacted by the business or agency whose data was compromised with additional instructions, as appropriate. You may also contact the organization’s IT security officer for more information.
If stolen money is involved, again contact Action Fraud to report the theft.
In cases of online stalking:
- If you feel that you are in immediate danger, contact the police on 999
- You can also report the Stalker by contacting:
- The National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300, or visit www.stalkinghelpline.org
- In cases where the offender is known, send the stalker a clear written warning saying the contact is unwanted and asking them to cease sending communications of any kind.
- Do this only once and do not communicate with the stalker again (Ongoing contact usually only encourages the stalker to continue the behavior).
- Save copies of all communication from the stalker (e.g., emails, threatening messages, messages via social media) and document each contact, including dates, times and additional circumstances, when appropriate.
- File a complaint with the stalker’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) and yours. Many ISPs offer tools that filter or block communications from specific individuals.
- Own your online presence. Set security and privacy settings on social networks and other services to your comfort level of sharing.
- Consider changing your email address and ISP; use encryption software or privacy protection programs on your computer and mobile devices. (You should consult with the Police before changing your email account. It can be beneficial to the investigation to continue using the email account so the Police may want to monitor communication.)
In cases of cyberbullying:
Cyberbullying can range from embarrassing or cruel online posts or digital pictures, to online threats, harassment, and negative comments, to stalking through emails, websites, social networks and text messages.
Every age group is vulnerable to cyberbullying, but teenagers and young adults are common victims. Cyberbullying is a growing problem in schools. Cyberbullying has become an issue because the Internet is fairly anonymous, which is appealing to bullies because their intimidation is difficult to trace. Unfortunately, rumors, threats and photos can be disseminated on the Internet very quickly.
Protect You and your Children from Cyberbullying:
- Limit where you or your children post personal information: Be careful who can access your contact information or details about your interests, habits or employment to reduce your exposure to bullies that they you or your children do not know. This may limit you and their risk of becoming a victim and may make it easier to identify the bully if they or you are victimised.
- Avoid escalating the situation: Responding with hostility is likely to provoke a bully. Depending on the circumstances, consider ignoring the issue. Often, bullies thrive on the reaction of their victims. If you or your child receives unwanted email messages, consider changing your email address. The problem may stop. If you continue to get messages at the new account, you may have a strong case for legal action.
- Document cyberbullying: Keep a record of any online activity (emails, web pages, social media posts, etc.), including relevant dates and times. Keep both an electronic version and a printed copy.
- Report cyber bullying to the appropriate authorities
- If you are being bullied online (or offline) by someone at work, report the problem to your HR department or line manager, or if at school or college report it to your teacher or tutor.
Seek help and support from relevant organisations, for example the Bullying UK helpline on 0808 800 2222