New London helpline launched for online harassment and cyberstalking victims

Credit: PA
The Met Police says online/internet enabled crime has risen by 119% between April 2019 and April 2023. Credit: PA

A new helpline is being set up to help protect Londoners from online harassment, cyberstalking, sextortion, hacked social media accounts and other types of cyber-crime.

Today Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced £170,000 of funding for a dedicated team of cybersecurity experts in the capital.

It is part of a one-year pilot to boost the reach and capacity of award-winning charity, The Cyber Helpline, which has already helped 600,000 people nationally since 2020 and has directly supported more than 40,000 victims.

The helpline, which can be accessed here, will provide Londoners with free expert advice, including specialist one-to-one support for victims.

It works via a secure chatbot on the website, recording and processing requests for help and advice 24 hours a day and passing them on to a dedicated London team for one-to-one phone and email contact as needed.

Cybercrime is on the rise in London, with the Metropolitan Police saying the number of offences flagged as online/internet enabled crime rose by 119% between April 2019 and April this year.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan Credit: PA

Young Londoners are increasingly targeted – particularly women and girls – with just 5% of those receiving unwanted sexual messages or pictures reporting their experience to the police, according to a recent national survey.

Nationally, 55% of adults were worried about being affected by online fraud, but only just over half of victims reported the crime to police or Action Fraud.

The Cyber Helpline is concerned that a large number of victims are suffering in silence because they are unclear if their experience meets the threshold of a criminal offence and they don’t know where to go for advice and help.

The new London helpline will aim to fill the gap in the specialist support available for all victims of cybercrime and online harm and provide them with straightforward and practical guidance to improve their wellbeing, online confidence and personal safety.

Mr Khan said: “Every woman and girl is entitled to be safe, and to feel safe – whatever the time of day and wherever they are in the capital. That includes being safe online and on mobile phones - where we know women and girls are being increasingly targeted.

“Too often those impacted don’t know where to turn for expert help and advice. That’s why today I’ve announced new investment to set up a dedicated London helpline team within the award-winning charity The Cyber Helpline to fill the gap in the specialist support available for those in need.

“This new service will provide Londoners with free expert advice on cybercrime 24 hours a day as part of our action to build a safer London for everyone.”

Claire Waxman OBE, London’s Independent Victims’ Commissioner, said: “For many years, there has been a significant lack of understanding around the impact that online harm, such as cyberstalking, harassment, and 'sextortion' can have on victims, with women and girls disproportionately affected.

“The complexity of such criminality often leaves victims unsure of their rights and where to turn for support.”

Founder and CEO of The Cyber Helpline, Rory Innes, said: “What's clear during the last three years is that online harassment and cyberstalking account for most cases, showing that cybercrime is much more nuanced, requiring a more specialist approach to resolution.

“This partnership will enable us to localise the expertise we're able to provide to London residents and build out the support we can offer in the capital, closing the gap in support for London residents experiencing online harm.”

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