It is a moment we all dread ... checking your bank account to find that fraudsters have stolen hundreds or even thousands of pounds of your hard-earned cash.
For one Huntingdon family, this nightmare became a reality when thieves made off with about £200-£300 through a series of unauthorised transactions for small amounts of money.
Dave Williams, 54, a retired taxi driver of Judson Court, recalled how his son’s bank account was targeted last year. The 25-year-old had various amounts of up to £99 siphoned off by criminals using fake retail company names. Mr Williams believes that his son’s details were stolen by hackers who managed to get into his computer.
He told The Hunts Post: “I was sitting in the front room when my son walks in with his bank statement. He says ‘what’s this?’, and I’m looking and there are all these little, small transactions.
“It is quite scary – you are sitting in the front room minding your own business and somebody has gone into his PC. They haven’t broken into your house but they have broken into your bank account – it feels like you have been burgled.
“It is a violation of somebody’s privacy – in your house you should be able to feel safe.”
While his money was refunded by the bank and an investigation was launched, he has never been told the outcome – apart from that the fraudsters were operating from Ireland.
He added: “I feel like that’s not the solution – that’s why banking fees are so high. The criminals have got their money, the claimant has got their money, but the insurance company has got to fork out, and they increase their fees and the bank increase their fees.
“This is just a local incident, but we are seeing it all over the world.
“It would be nice to know that they have tracked the criminals down and convicted them.
“It does feel like it is just one of those modern things that happens in our modern world that we have not quite got round to solving. It feels like the hackers are one step ahead of the enforcers.”
Since that incident, Mr Williams has set up text alerts so that he is informed every time money is deposited or withdrawn from his account.
“Just get in touch with your bank, keep an eye on your statements, and get text alerts if you have got a mobile phone. Don’t assume everything is all right every month – it is your money.
“It is a crime on the whole economy, it does affect everybody eventually,” he said.
But Mr Williams and his son are far from alone, and this is not the only type of cybercrime affecting Huntingdonshire residents. It is one of the fastest-growing criminal activities worldwide and covers a huge range of activity including financial scams, computer hacking, downloads of illegal pornography, virus attacks, stalking and harassment.
Cambridgeshire police said that in recent times it has seen traditional crimes committed with cyber elements, such as harassment or fraud.
Currently officers cannot say whether incidents of cybercrime are increasing or just how much of officers’ time is dedicated to these investigations, as it has only recently placed a cybercrime marker on its recording system.
A spokesman said that this will enable it to get a better picture of how many traditional crimes are being committed using technology.
But the force is trying to be proactive in this area.
It has launched a new strand of its Get Closer campaign, which will run throughout this month, to tackle these type of offences.
It will be split into four themes – helping parents with young children to stay safe online; how to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of online fraud; issues around internet safety, cyber bullying, and ‘sexting’ (sending explicit messages); and how businesses can prevent themselves from being targeted.
Detective superintendent Kevin Vanterpool said: “Cybercrime isn’t just about hacking and online bullying, there are many different types; hacking, identity theft, cyber bullying, sexting, sharing indecent images of children, denial of service attacks, emails containing viruses, and many more.
“I would strongly encourage all members of the public to refer to the new cybercrime section on our website as it will provide them with vital information which could prevent themselves, and their families, from becoming a victim of this type of crime.”
INFORMATION: For more, visit www.cambs-police.co.uk/GetCloser/Cybercrime or www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/campaigns/dont-be-a-stat.