If you saw a fire, you’d call the fire brigade. If you broke a leg, you’d call an ambulance. But if you found yourself to be the victim of online fraud, would you know who to call, or is online protection just too confusing?
According to the Cabinet Office’s Cost of Cyber Crime report, the economic impact of cyber crime on UK citizens is £3.1bn per year.
Everything from ‘scareware’ (fake anti-virus software) to online scams and identity theft takes it toll on internet users. We’re are increasingly at risk, but the worst thing is that if something goes wrong, we’re left with little clear advice about who to turn to.
Who you gonna call?
MPs are demanding that the government invests in a large scale campaign to make UK internet users fully aware of who they should turn to in the event of online fraud. The government’s own sponsored website, Get Safe Online, is hopelessly in need of investment and is far off most people’s radars.
Andrew Miller, the MP who chairs the Commons Science and Technology Committee, insists that instead of scaremongering about the risks of online fraud, people need better clarification about who to turn to in the event of cyber crime:
‘Knowledge is the best defence against fear, so the government should focus on raising awareness of how to stay safe online.’
Take steps to protect yourself
What do you do to protect your identity when you’re online? Do you know how to avoid likely scams – or who to go to if you fall for one? If you do become the victim of online crime, these are the organisations to speak to:
- Online fraud: Contact Action Fraud who will generate a crime reference number for you, but they won’t investigate the incident directly. Contact your local police with this reference number, and contact the website you think may have committed fraud, alerting them that you have raised this with the authorities.
- Banking fraud and ID theft: Your first port of call must be to contact your own bank to alert them to the incident. Contact Action Fraud for a crime reference number. You can also contact the Financial Services Ombudsman for free resolution of the issue.
- Online scams: If you suspect an online scam, or have been the victim of one, you can contact Trading Standards as well as your local police services. If you suspect an online retailer is committing a scam, contact the Office of Fair Trading.
So the organisations are out there, but I think people are still being left in the dark about who to contact in the event of online fraud. How many of these organisations have you heard of – or would you have known to contact?
While it’s great that MPs want a new campaign, we’d like to see a centralised and organised government resource that’s straightforward to access and offers people simple, understandable solutions to incidents of fraud.
Essentially, the internet is more accessible than ever before – the advice that helps us protect ourselves online needs to be as well.