Most people have been targeted by online crime


cybercrime lab

New government figures have revealed that 59% of Brits have been targeted by cyber criminals, and have lost an average of £236 each as a result. There are now around 1,300 organised crime groups around the world which are using the internet to steal from their innocent victims.

And while the government is taking some steps to protect us, they say that the most effective line of defence is ourselves. So how can you protect yourself online?

Overall the government puts the cost of e-crime at £27 billion. It comes in a variety of guises - ranging from identity theft and credit card fraud, to hacking into our emails and bank accounts, virus attacks and phishing.

It has launched a Get Safe Online campaign, which is designed to get us thinking about the simple steps we can take in order to protect ourselves.

1. Protect your devices with a PIN.
Some 42% of people don't have a PIN or a password on their phone, and 38% don't have one on their tablet. It's essential that you protect your devices, using different passwords for each one, and keeping them a secret.

2. Secure your wi-fi.
Make sure that your home wi-fi is password protected - using a strong password that couldn't be guessed. Take real care when you're using a hotspot when you're out and about. You should only use wi-fi that is password protected - especially when you're doing anything sensitive.

3. Log out and log off
Always make sure you log out of your accounts and log off when you've finished using the computer. Don't tick the option to keep you logged in unless there's no way anyone could get access to your computer or smartphone. It sounds obvious but 47% of people don't always do this.

4. Keep things private
Set your social media to keep things as private as possible - so you can control exactly who sees what you post. Never respond to a friend request from someone you don't know. It sounds ridiculous, but 31% of people have accepted a 'friend' they don't know in real life. And before you post, think twice about what you are saying: are you exposing yourself, details of your life, or information about money matters that other people could use?

5. Use good passwords
Some 49% of people use the same password for everything. You need something that's hard to guess, easy to remember, and is different for each thing you are signed up to. Don't follow the 40% of people who use obvious personal information to create their password.

6. Manage your messages
Never forward emails or open links from someone you don't recognise. If someone you know sends you something that looks unusual don't click on it, contact them some other way to check if they have been hacked or have a virus.

7. Look for the padlock
When you are shopping online make sure there's a padlock on the web browser and its an https site before you input any details. It's also essential not to buy from stores you cannot identify and contact off line. If in doubt, do some background research and take extra care.

8. Use anti-virus software
Viruses can be hidden in emails or on weblinks that look entirely innocent. The only way you can tell that a virus is lurking somewhere is to install virus software, and keep it updated. You'll need software for your computer and your phone too - at the moment only 25% of people have protected their phone with anti-virus software

9. Never send your details
If you get an email, letter or phone call asking you to confirm your details or your passwords - even if it's to secure a refund or deal with an alarming-sounding issue - it's best to assume that it's bogus. Contact the provider in another way - using a phone number or email address you know is safe, and check whether they have tried to contact you.

10. Bid smartly
If you are bidding on an internet auction, never transfer money to an account or hand over cash - use a service like Paypal, which will protect your details. If you are collecting (or someone is collecting from you) make sure it is in a public place. And check the item in person before you buy anything big - to make sure it exists.

If you are a victim of fraud, or are worried about being a target, report it to

Get Safe Online's Chief Exec Tony Neate said: "The most fundamental rules of online safety are not being followed by everyone all of the time. But the things we need to do to protect ourselves are really straightforward, and will save us time, money and hassle in the long run." So it's worth taking a little more care in order to save a lot more stress in the long run.

Revealed: The 10 most common scams

Revealed: The 10 most common scams