Protecting the public
Here are the kinds of threats that individuals face from organised crime – and ways in which you can protect yourself.
Online threats (cybercrime / e-crime)
Organised crime has been quick to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Internet, particularly the growth in e-commerce and online banking. Specialist criminal groups target individuals, small businesses and large corporate networks to steal personal information in bulk. This data is normally sold on to third party fraudsters for use in fraud or identity theft. Currently the most serious threats to UK consumers are from groups in Eastern Europe, South-East Asia and West Africa.
Main threats to your online safety:
- Website poisoning – legitimate websites can be infected with commands that redirect a user to a hidden website that automatically installs malicious software (usually called drive-by infections).
- Fake anti-virus – victims are tricked into downloading malicious software after being notified that their computer has been compromised. When used in conjunction with website poisoning, the victim will see a pop-up message warning them that their computer has been infected with a virus and they must download the software to "protect" their computer.
- Emails with malicious attachments – email messages containing attachments, sometimes connected with high profile media stories, or claiming to come from reputable organisations. The attachments almost always contain malicious software of some kind.
- Hacking attacks – small businesses, e-commerce operations and corporate networks are constantly being scanned by attackers who are looking for security weaknesses in target computer systems. Once identified, the hackers will steal any personal information held on the system, for sale to fraudsters.
- Scam emails – email messages that direct victims to fake websites, such as online banking or payment card sites, and instruct the victim to enter personal data. Normally known as “phishing” attacks, these have mainly focused on online banking passwords, but increasingly they are also seeking phone banking and payment card credentials as well.
How do I protect myself?
The vast majority of consumers use the Internet without any problems. However, anyone can fall prey to e-criminals if they do not put in place basic security precautions when online.
Some things to bear in mind:
- No bank or card issuer will contact you by email and ask you to enter all your personal and financial details online. If you receive a message like this, report it to your bank, then delete it.
- If you receive an email from an unknown source, do not open it and do not click on any attachments.
- Make sure that your anti-virus software is up to date.
- Install an anti-spyware package.
- Always use a firewall.
- Ensure that your software is up to date. For example, Windows software is routinely updated on the second Tuesday of each month (security updates are issued on that date). Should a critical update be necessary between monthly updates, make sure it is installed immediately.
Fraud – what are the threats and how do I protect myself?
Fraud is a crime which can affect any member of the UK public. It’s estimated that fraud costs the UK £20 billion a year. SOCA works closely with law enforcement and industry partners to reduce the damage caused by organised fraud.
By following some of the advice and links to partner agencies below, you can better protect yourself against the threat of fraud.
Mass marketing fraud
Mass marketing fraud is estimated to cost the UK public £3.5 billion a year. Recent developments in communications have allowed fraudsters to use the postal system, telephones and, more recently, the Internet to reach a mass market cheaply and easily.
By using the same contact methods as legitimate mass marketers, fraudsters can contact thousands of potential victims. Mass marketing fraud comes in many forms, including advance fee fraud, fake foreign lotteries, sweepstake and prize draw scams, and boiler room fraud.
Credit card/cheque and identity fraud
For card crime, cheque fraud and identity crime such as account takeover there are a variety of agencies which can provide advice. If you think you are a victim of this type of fraud, you should report to your bank or card company in the first instance. The links below have more details.
Organised insurance fraud is a growing fraud threat. It’s estimated that organised motor insurance fraud costs the UK £350 million a year.
The Insurance Fraud Bureau was set up in 2006 in conjunction with the industry to work with law enforcement to combat organised insurance fraud. For information on this and access to their ‘cheatline’, an anonymous way of reporting this fraud, see the links below.
- SOCA is unable to take reports of crime from members of the public. If you are a victim of crime you should report it to your local police force.
- The City of London Police is the UK’s lead force for fraud. You can report fraud directly to them and get advice on how to protect yourself. Their site is linked below.
- The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) also have a dedicated response to fraud and economic crime. There’s a link to their site below.
- If you are a victim of card fraud, you should report it to your bank or card company straightaway.
For more advice and information about protecting yourself, visit our useful links pages.