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 cybercrime, 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 cybercrime, covers all crimes that:

  • take place online
  • are committed using computers, or
  • are assisted by online technology

What you can do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim

Protect your email account by using a strong, separate password

Cyber Criminals can youse your email to access many of your personal accounts, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft.

A good way to create a strong and memorable password is to use three random words. Numbers and symbols can still be used if needed, for example 3redhousemonkeys27!

Always install the latest software and app updates

Cyber criminals exploit weaknesses in software and apps to attack your devices and steal your identity. Software and app updates are designed to fix these weaknesses and installing them as soon as possible will keep your devices secure. 

Information can easily be found about how to install these updates from AppleMicrosoft and Google.

Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA)

2FA is the single best thing you can do to improve the security of your important online accounts, such as your email.

Accounts with 2FA enabled require you to verify your identity using your password (first factor), as well as a randomised six-digit code (second factor) that’s delivered by your mobile phone. If your password is stolen, they still need your phone. If your phone is stolen, they still need your password.

See the latest instructions on how to enable 2FA.

Use a password manager

Reusing the same password across multiple accounts can be dangerous. A cyber-criminal might steal one of your passwords, and then use it to try and access other accounts. This means they could quickly break into several of your accounts despite only knowing one password.

A password manager is an app on your phone, tablet or computer that stores your passwords securely, so you don’t need to remember them all.

For more information, visit the Government’s advice on password managers.

Secure smartphones and tablets with a screen lock

Screen locks offer your devices an important extra layer of security.

Always back up your most important data

Safeguard your most important data, such as your photos and key documents, by backing them up to an external hard drive or a cloud-based storage system.

Tips for parents and guardians

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:

  • keep computers and games consoles in family rooms where you can monitor activity
  • install parental control software or activate parental controls through your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to prevent access to inappropriate content
  • ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ your child on social networks, so you can see how they're using them
  • check age restrictions for websites or social networks to make sure your children are allowed to join
  • advise your child not to post personal information or any images they wouldn’t want everyone to see
  • check their social media accounts’ privacy settings, so their posts are only seen by friends and their location isn’t tracked
  • avoid using webcams unless talking to close friends or family, and consider covering it when not in use
  • monitor how your children use the internet and watch for any secretive behaviour 
  • encourage your child to be open about what they do online and who they’re talking to
  • insist you go with them if they wish to meet online friends
  • ensure the games your children play online are age appropriate

Report cyber crime

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).

Further advice and support

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 TwitterInstagram 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