The term cyber crime refers to a variety of crimes carried out online, using the internet through computers, laptops, tablets, internet-enabled televisions, games consoles and smart phones.

Cyber-enacted crimes can only be committed on the internet – stealing confidential information that’s stored online, for example. Other crimes which are carried out online, but could be committed without the use of the internet, such as sexual grooming, stalking or harassment, bullying, and financial or romance fraud, are called cyber-enabled crimes.

Committing crimes online allows someone to hide their identity and location, which in some cases is thousands of miles away. People who commit cyber crimes are often well organised and believable online. Many cyber crimes are committed by offenders who may be thousands of miles away, which makes it difficult for police and other law enforcement agencies to bring them to justice.

If you’ve been tricked into handing over your personal details or goods, it’s unlikely that you will be able to recover anything stolen by the offender, unless a fraudulent payment qualifies for a refund from your bank or credit card company. If the offender is arrested, goes to court and is convicted, the court will have the power to order them to pay you compensation.

There are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of you falling victim to cyber crime, such as making sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software on your computer and strong passwords. Find out more about staying safe online.

Understanding how you might feel

If you’ve experienced cyber crime you may feel like you’re facing a powerful and invisible attacker. You might feel angry, fearful or sick, under siege in your own home and powerless to defend yourself, even if you are computer literate.

People often feel embarrassed or ashamed if they are tricked into becoming a victim of cyber crime, and blame themselves for not doing more to protect themselves. But you’re not to blame – only the offender is responsible for this crime taking place, and you have no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed.

Other common reactions

Everyone reacts differently, but it’s not uncommon to feel:

  • less trusting and believe that everyone is trying to trick you out of your money, personal details or identity
  • concerned that your child is being ‘groomed’ when the contact may be innocent
  • that someone is intentionally trying to damage your property by contaminating your computer with malware
  • as though your ‘personal space’ has been invaded and that your life has been tainted, controlled or manipulated by a stranger
  • a lack of confidence when using a computer or the internet, and unsure who to call for help.
If you think that you have been the victim of online fraud or identity theft and you want to report the crime or incident, contact Action Fraud either through their online portal or telephone helpdesk. Please note that it’s no longer possible to report fraud to your local police station – Action Fraud is the national fraud reporting service, and is the starting point for any police investigation into your loss.

If you want to report any other sort of cyber crime, such as stalking, harassment, or fears about sexual grooming, contact the police.

Victim Support is here to help you whether you have spoken to the police, Action Fraud or decided not to report the crime. We will help you get your life back on track, and although we’re unable to financially compensate you for your loss, we can work to support you until you no longer need our help.

While most people are referred to us by the police or Action Fraud, anyone can contact us directly if they want to, and you don’t need to report a crime to the police to receive support from us. You can contact us by:

Alternatively you can create a free account on My Support Space – an online resource containing interactive guides (including a guide on online crime) to help you manage the impact that crime has had on you.

If English is not your first language and you would like some support, call our Supportline and let us know which language you speak, and we will call you back with an interpreter as soon as possible. We also welcome calls via Relay UK on 18001 08 08 16 89 111.

Families and friends affected by crime can also contact us for support and information. If you’re a child or young person under 18 and are looking for support, visit our You & Co website, where we have lots of information and tips specifically for children and young people.

Visit the Get Safe Online website for a wider range of practical advice on common internet scams and tips on how to keep yourself safe online.

Image-based sexual abuse (sometimes called 'revenge porn') is when someone shares sexually explicit images or videos of another person without their consent.

Fraud is when someone tricks or deceives you to gain a dishonest advantage.