Online crime, or cybercrime, refers to a variety of crimes carried out online using the internet. For example, through computers, laptops, tablets, internet-enabled televisions, games consoles and smart phones.

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

Committing crimes online allows someone to hide their identity and location. People who commit these crimes are often well-organised and believable online. Many online crimes are committed by offenders who may be thousands of miles away. This 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 you’ll 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.

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

People often feel embarrassed or ashamed if they’re tricked into becoming a victim of crime online. They 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 everyone is trying to trick you out of your money, personal details or identity
  • concerned 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 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 you’ve been the victim of online fraud or identity theft and you want to report the crime or incident, contact Action Fraud through their online reporting tool or by phone on 0300 123 2040.

Please note, 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 online crime, such as stalking, harassment, or fears about sexual grooming, contact the police.

There are things you can do to reduce the likelihood of you experiencing online crime, such as making sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software on your devices and strong passwords.

Find out more about staying safe online.

When you report a crime to the police or Action Fraud, they should automatically ask if you’d like help from an organisation like Victim Support. But anyone affected by crime can contact us directly – you don’t need to talk to the police to get our help.

You can get in touch by:

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

If English is not your first language and you’d like support, call our Supportline and let us know which language you speak. We’ll call you back with an interpreter as soon as possible. We also welcome calls via Relay UK and SignLive (BSL).

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 children and young people website for information and tips.

Further support and information:


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.