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What’s cybercrime – and why should I care about it? 

A man's hands holding a phone and taping in online security details

Cybercrime is a type of crime that many will have heard about or experienced.

It is a broad term used to cover all crimes that:

  • take place online
  • are committed using computers
  • are facilitated by online technology

It can affect individuals, businesses, other organisations, and essential services.

Cybercrime can include the hacking of social media or email; phishing attempts (often delivered in the form of a spam email encouraging you to click a link); computer virus/malware/spyware related crime and hacking extortion. It may enable criminals to carry out further cybercrimes or cyber-enabled fraud.

If you experience cybercrime, don’t panic. 

Report the incident, however small – follow our reporting advice at the bottom of this article.

“Most cyber-criminals work to engage people through panicking them or stirring up fear or curiosity – for example, you might be told you’ve won a competition; you owe a payment, or you’ve missed a delivery.” explains Cyber Protect Officer Megan Haldane.

“They use different tactics – often manipulating their victims’ emotions and instincts and driving them to take action that is not in their best interests – to obtain either personal information or bank details or encourage them to click on or download something.

It is important not to engage with the scammer. And not to panic or act rashly. In many cases, scammers cast their phishing nets wide – and wait to see who responds.”

The importance of reporting

Fraud and cybercrime need to be reported by victims to Action Fraud (www.actionfraud.police.uk) – see further contact details below.  

ActionFraud pass reports to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) to assess, data match and find similarities to other reports and local law enforcement agencies are asked to investigate where there are viable lines of enquiry or vulnerable victims. Even if there are no lines of enquiry, reports provide beneficial information that can be used to help the NFIB disrupt this type of criminality.

In 2023, we received 955 reports from Action Fraud of cyber dependent crime in Avon and Somerset. This doesn’t include the 80 per cent of fraud that is cyber enabled; other cyber-enabled crimes such as sextortion, extortion, malicious communications, harassment, stalking etc; or the many crimes which will have gone unreported.

Those targeted ranged from children to people in their 90’s. 

Some 92 per cent of the reports made in our area came from individuals and eight per cent from businesses.  We know from research that cases go under reported; In the case of businesses, it is estimated that only 9 per cent of victims report to Action Fraud.

“One of our biggest challenges is encouraging individuals and businesses to report,” explains Megan. “Some people feel embarrassed by being targeted or scammed.  Others may be unsure where or how to report, may consider the matter too small or not important enough to report or not even see themselves as a victim of a crime.  Fear of reputational damage, especially among businesses can also be a barrier.

“We want people to know there is no stigma around becoming a victim of cybercrime.

“By reporting to Action Fraud you are helping us identify the perpetrators – who are usually targeting many people at once – and alerts us to new methods being used. We can then use this information to help protect other people.”

Supporting victims

Last year, our Cyber Protect team supported 486 victims.

Here in Avon and Somerset, every victim of cyber dependent crime will be given crime prevention advice tailored to their needs. Our Cyber Protect team works closely with colleagues in the Fraud Protect team to provide advice and support to victims of cybercrime.

Those who do report often find their minds are set at rest and our Cyber Protect team are able to help with any fears.  Recent comments include:

  • “Thank you so much for your time and speaking with me, it’s reassuring to know my report was looked at.”
  • “I really appreciate your reassurance that I did the right things after the hack.”
  • “I don’t feel so silly now after talking it through.”
  • “You’ve given me lots of helpful advice I can now follow, thank you!”


In 2023, our Cyber Protect team engaged with over 12,000 people at 240 public engagements, helping to prevent those individuals from becoming victims.

“We work to raise awareness of cybercrime, how it may be presented to you, and how you can protect yourself from it. Also, through presentations and workshops we de-bunk the myths associated with cybercrime and empower people with the knowledge they need to protect themselves.” explains Megan.

“We engage within communities including with groups such as Rotary Clubs, Parish Councils and Women’s Institute; make presentations to small and medium-sized businesses and charities; and share information through local media and via our social media channels.

Whilst anyone could become a victim of cybercrime, knowing how to respond and report can help you stay calm and in control.”

Top Tips:


  • If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • Be on your guard when opening emails or texts, especially from unknown senders.
  • If you are concerned a message may not be genuine, take five (minutes to think) and tell two (people you trust).
  • Keep up to date on the latest trends. Bear in mind that technology changes quickly – an example being the arrival of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • Follow the cyber aware guidance of 6 top tips to keep yourself safe online: Cyber Aware – NCSC.GOV.UK.


  • Report all incidents of cybercrime to Action Fraud, either online or by calling 0300 123 2040.
  • Avon and Somerset Police can be contacted directly via 101 or a report made online if you have met the criminal in person, if there is an immediate threat to safety or urgent support is needed or if you have been a victim of sextortion (a form of blackmail usually involving threats to publish sexual information, photos or videos).
  • Always call 999 if you are in immediate danger.
  • If you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud and you need advice or support, there are resources available via Action Fraud and Victim Support.
  • If you have received an email which you are not sure about, you can also forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS): report@phishing.gov.uk
  • Most phone providers are part of a scheme that allows customers to report suspicious text messages for free by forwarding it to 7726.
  • You can also report scam call numbers for free to  7726.
  • Report a website you think is a scam at: Report a suspicious website – NCSC.GOV.UK.

If you are interested in organising a presentation or talk for your organisation, community group or school, please email: CyberProtect@avonandsomerset.police.uk for more information (please note that this email is not for reporting crime and is not monitored 24/7).