Online crime

Online or cyber crime are the terms used to describe crimes committed online – through computers, laptops, game consoles, tablets and smartphones.

Cyber crime can come in many forms including sexual grooming or online harassment, revenge porn, online fraud, romance fraud, selling of illegal goods or substances and phishing.

Online bullying is also an issue affecting many young people, please visit our bullying and online bullying page for more information on this.

If you have been approached with inappropriate information or online messages, you may feel scared, angry or confused and that is not ok. We are here to help if you are unsure what to do or where to turn.

Unfortunately it’s very easy to miss warning signs and to fall victim to online crime. If you have fallen victim to any type of cyber crime you may be left feeling very vulnerable – you may feel embarrassed and ashamed that you have fallen victim, have difficulty trusting people as a result or feel angry about what has happened.

Remember that you are not to blame and that you don’t have to go through the experience on your own. If you are unsure about what to do or if you simply need someone to talk to, we are here to help. You can talk to us in confidence and we will find the best way forward together.

If you would like to, you can meet with one of our friendly staff in person or you could take part in activities with other young people who have had similar experiences to you.

We will support you in whatever way suits you best. We are here to help you get back on your feet so please get in touch.

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t told anyone about your experience before or if it happened a long time ago. You can find out more about the support we offer on our ‘what we do’ page.

What we do

All of our services are free and confidential.

Staying safe

How can I protect myself?

Grooming and sexual exploitation

It’s important to be aware of the risks of chatting to strangers online and that people you chat to may not always be who they say they are. You can be tempted to give out personal details but it’s really important that you’re careful about what details you give out online.

  • NEVER give out personal contact details online and NEVER meet up with someone you’ve met online unless an adult goes along with you.
  • Never send any pictures of yourself or your mates and family to anyone you’ve met online.
  • Don’t open links to other sites you might have been sent in a chat room and don’t open emails from anyone you don’t know.
  • If you’re being pestered in a chat room, block that person.  Ask someone how to do this.
  • Tell your parents or your teachers straight away if you come across any info or pictures that make you feel awkward or embarrassed. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this you can contact us in confidence, we are here for help and support.

Visit our grooming and sexual exploitation page for more detail about what to do if you are worried for yourself or a friend and how to keep safe.

Lancashire Constabulary has put together the following hints and tips to stop you becoming a victim.

…on social media

Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter contain a huge amount of personal information.

Anyone you accept as a friend, follower or associate may be able to find out:

  • Your address
  • Your date of birth
  • Your place of work
  • Your school or college
  • The names and details of other family members
  • When you are going holiday
  • Where you usually go to socialise
  • What route you take if you go walking or running

Before you accept anyone, make sure you know them and would be happy with them accessing all that information. If you play games online, Get Safe Online has useful hints and tips on how to keep safe.

…from cyber bullying

  • If you’re a young person, speak to an adult about what is going on, ideally a parent or teacher
  • You can block people who harass or abuse you
  • Social networks have policies about dealing with inappropriate messages – if you are receiving them, take a screenshot and refer the issue directly to the network or website concerned
  • Learn how to use security settings to restrict access to your social media profiles to just family and friends you trust

…from sexting and revenge porn

If you take a picture of yourself – whether sexual or not – and send it electronically to another person, you must be prepared for the risk it will end up in the public domain.

Even if you trust the person you send it to, that may not be in your control because:

  • Your phone/device with the image on may get lost or stolen
  • Your friend’s phone/device may be lost or stolen with the image on it
  • Your devices may have malicious software on them which steals the images
  • The service you use to send the images may be hacked, and the images stolen
  • You may fall out with the person you sent them to, and they may distribute them to others

Remember: Taking, sharing or possessing an indecent photo of anyone under 18, even if you are the person in the picture or the same age as them, is a criminal offence.

If there is an indecent image of you on a website:

  • You can try and contact the website and ask them to remove it – there is normally a “contact” button at the bottom of a website’s main page.
  • If you believe someone has shared or published sexual images of you without your consent contact 101 to inform police.
  • Revenge porn” – where someone shares private, sexual materials, with the intention of causing embarrassment or distress – is also now a criminal offence, and offenders can be fined and receive up to two years in prison.

…from phishing

Phishing is an attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, credit card details or to steal money by making contact which appears to be official and trustworthy via email, pop-up message, phone call or text message.To protect yourself:

  • Don’t open attachments or click on links within any unsolicited emails you receive, and never respond to emails that ask for your personal or financial details. Remember, you can hover over a link to see where it will take you.
  • An email address can be mimicked or hacked – if you receive an email from a person or company you know, but which appears to be suspicious, make contact with the sender directly via another method of communication to confirm they sent the email.
  • If you receive an email which asks you to log on to an online account because of an issue such as suspicious activity, do not follow the link contained in the email. Instead, go separately to the website yourself.

…from fraud

  • Do not open emails or click on attachments sent from unknown sources.
  • Your bank or card issuer will never contact you via email asking you to input all your personal and financial details online. If you receive an email like this, report it to your bank and then delete it.
  • Make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date.
  • If you encounter messages from anti-virus software while on the internet, do not follow them – only follow anti-virus instructions from the software installed on your machine.
  • Ensure that your software is up-to-date.

…from romance fraud

Romance fraudsters use fake online profile to form a relationship with you and gain your trust leading you to believe you are in a loving and caring relationship often over weeks and months. However, the criminal’s end goal is only ever to get your money or personal information.

Crimestoppers advise the following steps to protect yourself:

  • Stop: Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information.
  • Challenge: Is this person really who they say they are? Could it be fake? It’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests for your financial or personal details. Criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.