Advice Guide: How to protect against cyber crime

We asked experts how to keep safe online Credit: ITV

Cyber crime can change your life in the blink of an eye. Given the opportunity, fraudsters will take your identity and your finances within minutes.

For a special series, we are meeting victims of online crime and speaking to experts who work to make us safer. Below is just some of their advice.

Most passwords are too short, too simple and easily hacked. Use a passphrase, if possible, made up of three or four words which mean nothing to anyone else. For example: 'moon keyboard shack.' You can add numbers and special characters to it as needed.

Never re-use passwords. This means having a different one for every website or account. To help with this, cyber security researchers suggest the use of 'password manager' apps. These create unique passwords or phrases for each site you use and keep track of them for you.

Sharing can build relationships but do we share too much?

Social media can help you stay in touch with family and friends but it can also be used against you.

Cyber security consultants say it takes just two hours to gather enough details from someone's posts to steal their identity. A date of birth, a home address, family connections and even day-to-day movements can be revealed. Fraudsters often check those details against websites of public records.

Tightening privacy settings is key to preventing this, as is thinking twice about what you post.

Security experts say everyone should cover their laptop camera

Criminals using your computer's camera to watch you and gather intelligence may sound like the stuff of spy movies but it happens in real life. One couple, from Lancashire, lost a fortune after hackers turned on their camera remotely and used what they gathered to clear their bank accounts.

Covering-up your camera with a piece of paper and tape is the best defence, alongside keeping your devices up-to-date. Ensure you have anti-virus software installed and set it to refresh every day. Install updates on software when offered because they will keep more secure.

Help is available if you have fallen victim to hacking

If you find yourself a victim of cyber fraud or online identity theft, what should you do?

Contact Action Fraud: the UK's national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre. They also offer an email or phone service where you can help alert others to potential scam emails and messages. Alternatively, you can call your local police force on 101.

Inform your bank, credit card company and other financial providers on a number you obtain from a trusted source like your paper statements or the rear of your cards.

You may also want to consider further protection to block unauthorised attempts to take out credit in your name. The CIFAS scheme places a marker on your credit file to help prevent fraudsters opening accounts and loans with your details.