POLICE in Worcester are stepping up efforts to tackle cyber crime, including fraud as they declare war on online criminals.

Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre, received 3,898 reports from the West Mercia Police area (which includes Worcestershire and Herefordshire) between January 2013 and March this year. There were 2,037 reports from Warwickshire during the same period.

The largest number of complaints from West Mercia concerned online shopping and auctions (885), advance fee frauds (524) and computer virus/malware/spyware (324).

West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police now recognises cyber crime as a massive challenge with one in three adults nationally suffering online crime over the past 12 months compared with one in five suffering offline crime.

A cyber crime conference and workshop being held at Coventry University on May 23 as the latest initiative designed to increase public awareness and to develop partnership working to thwart internet fraudsters.

The day-long conference is being sponsored by Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Ball, who will open the event to a range of invited guests interested in cyber crime issues, including educators, businesses, the police and public bodies.

Detective Chief Inspector Sean Paley, from Warwickshire and West Mercia Police specialist operations unit, said: “Cyber crime knows no geographic boundaries – it can be local, national, global all at the same time. People are increasingly living their lives online.

“We need to educate people to the risks to ensure they can use the internet safely. Virtually everyone is exposed to cyber crime at some time.”

DCI Paley said: “We believe one of the most effective ways to disrupt cyber criminals is to help and support the public by raising awareness. Simple measures such as updating software and anti-virus systems can prevent people falling victim.

“Whether in the real world or online, I can’t over-emphasise how important it is for consumers and businesses to know how to protect themselves against fraud. Always make sure you have the latest security software installed on your computer to enable shopping and banking safely online.

“Basic information risk management can prevent around 80 per cent of cyber attacks suffered by businesses.

“Fraudsters can be extremely persuasive – do not be fooled. Your bank or the police will never call, visit or email you to request your PIN, collect your bank card or ask you to transfer money to another account. Anyone attempting to do so is a fraudster.”

Victims of fraud or anyone suspecting they may have fallen victim, should contact Action Fraud on www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud or call 0300 123 2040.

The Home Office’s Streetwise campaign provides safety tips for businesses and home computer users, including 10 steps to cyber security, www.cyberstreetwise.com .

Anyone interested in securing one of the event’s few remaining places should email Karen.collins@westmercia.pnn.police.uk .