While the world wide web has opened up a whole new realm of new possibilities, providing unprecedented connection between people, products and information from endless points across the world, it has also given fraudsters a new channel of operation. Sadly, the internet is one of the numerous instruments utilised by criminals as a way of committing fraud. But if you’ve been the victim of a cyber-crime, all is not lost – there are steps you can take to report it, alert others and perhaps even recoup some or all of your losses.
• Being the victim of a crime can be a difficult thing to deal with, but it’s important to keep a clear head and remember not to panic. The first thing you should do is report the activity to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre.
• You can do this by filling out their secure form on the online fraud reporting tool (this takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete). You will need all the relevant information to hand, such as names, dates and how much money you have lost.
• Alternatively, you can call a specialist advisor anonymously on 0300 123 2040 for help and advice (Monday – Friday, 9am to 6pm).
WHY SHOULD I DO THIS, AND WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
• When you contact Action Fraud to report the crime, you will be given a police crime reference number which you can quote in any future correspondence about the fraud. Reporting it in this way will ensure the correct procedures are followed.
• Action Fraud will also pass the details on to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. By reporting the crime to Action Fraud, you help to build up their database of intelligence on fraudsters operating in the UK.
• If you wish, you can keep a written log of any information relating to the fraud, including any updates, as the police may contact you directly. Not all of the crimes can be investigated individually – but it may feed into a wider investigation.
• If you wish, Action Fraud will also pass your details on to Victim Support. If so, Victim Support will contact you directly with help and advice.
Depending on the type of fraud, there are further steps you can take to help protect yourself and others in future:
• Contact your bank or building society as soon as you notice any unauthorised activity or unusual withdrawals. They will be able to act by freezing your account or cancelling your card and issuing you with a new one. When you speak to your bank, make sure that they have the correct postal address on record so that the new card and PIN number come directly to you. It’s also worthwhile making sure your other contact details, such as email address and phone number, are up to date in their system.
• You are liable for unauthorised activity which has taken place before you inform your bank (up to a limit of £50), so it’s important that you notify them straight away. This should also help to prevent any more money from being taken without your knowledge or consent, and if any more suspicious activity takes place, the bank should spot it and notify you as well.
• After contacting your bank to alert them of the situation, you are no longer liable should any more unauthorised withdrawals be made from the account (unless you are found to have been negligent), so the bank will refund you if any more money is taken. However, if you are found to have negligently compromised your account security, for instance by telling somebody your PIN number or sharing your personal information, login credentials or banking details in a public forum such as a social networking site, the bank won’t refund you. This does not apply to victims of fraud, where personal information or account details have been deliberately stolen through illegal activity such as malware or phishing scams.
• Similarly, if the money has been withdrawn from a credit card account, or if your card is cloned or stolen, you may be liable until you inform the card issuer (up to a maximum of £50). After this point, you should no longer be liable for any further withdrawals.
• You may wish to notify Trading Standards of the fraudulent activity, so that they can provide you with advice and use the information to help prevent others from becoming victims of the same scam. However, they will not be able to recover any money for you. Remember, fraud is a crime, so Trading Standards will be able to help by taking action against those responsible.
• You could also consider reporting the crime directly to the police. However, do not dial 999 to do this unless you are in a real emergency or immediate danger. Instead, use the 101 non-emergency number or visit your local police station to make a report.
STEP 5: PHISHING SCAMS
• If you are the victim of an email phishing scam, you can help to prevent others from falling victim to the same trick by reporting it to the relevant email service provider (for instance Gmail or Outlook), who can take action by closing the account the email was sent from. Don’t be tempted to respond to the phishing email.
• If the scam involves mimicking a legitimate company or professional body, such as a well-known online shop, government agency or bank, you can report it to them as well. Companies often have a dedicated email address set up that you can forward the phishing email to. They can then make other customers aware by sending out an alert or posting a warning on their website.
STEP 6: IDENTITY THEFT
• If you have approved a transaction that seems legitimate at first, and later discover you are the victim of identity theft, contact the payment issuer. While it is not always possible to recover all of your losses, if you act quickly they may be able to cancel the payment. Some debit card providers operate a chargeback scheme which may help you to recover some or all of the money taken.
• If you have used your credit card for a transaction between the value of £100 and £30,000, you should be able to claim the money back from the card issuer under the Consumer Credit Act. Generally, credit cards provide greater security, so it’s often a good idea to use them for higher value purchases.
As criminals develop ever more advanced ways of committing online fraud, it is easy to become a victim. However, while nobody is immune to this type of crime, it is possible to protect yourself in future. Taking measures to protect your personal data and increase your online security, such as using trusted up to date anti-virus software, changing your password to a longer and more secure option (using a range of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters) and using different passwords across your various online accounts, can all help. You can also protect yourself by never sharing personal information online, or opening links or attachments in unusual or suspicious emails.