Criminal activity using computers and the internet is unfortunately on the increase. You can minimise the likelihood of becoming a victim of this type of crime by putting in place some of the measures detailed on these web pages. However, if you are unfortunate enough to become a victim of cyber crime, you should report it to the Police. Reports can be made in respect of fraud, including online or internet crimes, and these will receive a police crime reference number. Reports can also be made if you've received a potential scam message or computer virus but no money has been lost or you haven't responded to it.
Reports should be made on-line by visiting the Action Fraud page of the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre website.
Alternatively, you can report any such issues by telephoning 0300 123 2040.
There are lots of sites around that allow you to talk to other people on the web. Chat rooms give you the chance to have a conversation with other people and get instant replies. Online message boards and forums let you post questions or comments and ask other users to give their opinion in their own time.
It can be a great way to chat to other people who share your interests, but you should always be careful not to pass on any of your personal details. You should always keep in mind that internet users can pretend to be anyone they like. They can lie about their age, their interests and whether they're male or female. No matter how long you've been chatting, remember that they're still strangers; you don't really know them at all.
Some of you may have your own Bebo account or Facebook profile that lets you chat with friends or communicate with other users who share your interests. These 'social networks' let you create your own blog, upload photos and videos for others to see and add people to an online friends list.
Social networks are a great way of keeping in touch but you should think carefully before adding someone to your list of online friends or posting a blog entry that could get you into trouble at school, college or work. Remember:
your page is still a public place, so putting anything on your page that you wouldn't want your parents, teacher or boss to see is not a good idea
you can never be sure that other users are being truthful about their online identities, so be careful about what information you give out
to think about whether you know someone well enough before accepting someone into your group of linked friends
to make sure you know who to contact to report abuse or bullying on your page and how your complaint will be dealt with
If you are looking for more information about staying in control of your page and how to get the most out of social networking sites, ThinkUKnow has all the advice you need.
When you're using a chat room or posting on a message board, never give out any personal information like your address or your phone number. You should always use a nickname, so no-one can look you up in a telephone directory and get your home phone number.
It's usually not a good idea to arrange to meet up with someone that you've been chatting to online. Remember that you can never be sure that they're telling the truth about their age or their interests and you could be putting yourself in danger.
If you do want to meet up with someone you've met online, make sure that you discuss it with your parents beforehand. If they do agree, make sure that you arrange a meeting in a public place and that you take an adult with you.
Some websites will ask you to fill out a registration form before you can use them. While this is normal, it's a good idea to find out what the website will do with your personal details. All companies that collect information have to tell their customers how personal information will be used. Make sure you check the website's terms and conditions if you want to know.
Some sites allow other companies to use details from their user database for market research purposes. Companies have to give you the chance to tell them if you don't want your details to be used in this way. This is often done by having a tick box on the online registration page. If you don't want your information to be used, tick that box before you submit your information.
Many people still don't like shopping on the internet because they think their bank details are not safe. Luckily, shopping on the web is now just as safe as ordering goods over the telephone, as long as you follow a few common sense rules.
If you do order goods over the internet, make sure that the company you're buying from uses a secure shopping server. You'll know if it is a secure site if a padlock icon appears at the bottom of your browser window, or the web address begins with 'https:'.
If it's a company that you've never heard of before, search their site for any contact numbers and postal addresses. If they're a respectable company, they won't mind you giving them a quick call to ask them a few questions.
Also, make sure that you never send your bank details to anyone in an email. Banks and online stores will never ask you to do this as it is not a secure way of sending information.
If you do receive an official-looking email that asks you to send your financial details, you should never reply as you could become a victim of identity fraud.