PEOPLE have been warned to be on their guard against the growing threat posed by sophisticated cyber criminals.
The risk has been highlighted by Wiltshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Angus Macpherson.
He is warning both consumers and the owners of small and medium sized businesses that they need to be vigilant to reduce the chance of becoming victims.
He said the police cannot tackle cyber crime alone because many fraudsters operate from internet cafés in distant countries.
He was speaking as the Home Office launched its £4m Cyber Streetwise campaign, which is designed to educate small businesses and consumers on how to avoid falling victim to the online thieves.
The Government estimates that the total loss through fraud in England and Wales runs into tens of billions of pounds, with tens of thousands of cyber crimes being reported.
Mr Macpherson said: “Unfortunately cyber crime is the big growth area in crime, so I very much welcome this Home Office initiative.
“The Wiltshire Police fraud team investigates frauds against victims in the county which are carried out by criminals within the UK jurisdiction.
“But the problem is that cyber crime needs more international co-operation between governments.
“These criminals are extremely mobile. I’m told they will gain access to victims’ accounts from a faraway internet cafe, transfer funds and then quickly move on before their position can be pinpointed. “Others will work from laptops which they discard once the crime has been committed in order to cover their tracks.
“We all need to be far more canny by ensuring that we have good online security on our computers.”
DS Jon Lee, head of complex fraud at Wiltshire Police, said: “Cyber crime is very much a hidden crime – it’s hard to know the true scale of the problem. “This isn’t just a crime that affects people in Wiltshire or in the UK, it’s a global problem.
“For the victims of cyber crime, it can be an extremely traumatic and often embarrassing experience. Advice can be found at cyberstreetwise.com and crimes can be reported at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
According to a Government survey, while 94 per cent of people believe it is their personal responsibility to ensure a safe internet experience:
• Only 44 per cent always install internet security software on new equipment.
• Only 37 per cent download updates and patches for personal computers when prompted – falling even further to a fifth (21 per cent) for smartphones and mobile devices.
• Less than a third (30 per cent) habitually use complex passwords to protect online accounts.
• Fifty seven per cent do not always check websites are secure before making a purchase.