|Millions of Britons who receive scam letters and e-mails are now being urged to forward them on just the once - to the National Fraud Authority.
The agency has launched a new operation to track down the fraudsters behind the multi-million pound industry in scam mail, but needs public input.
Details of how to forward e-mails are on the Action Fraud website.
Chief executive Dr Bernard Herdan said doing so would give "unprecedented" information about criminal activity.
"Both in terms of collecting lots of fraudulent e-mails and letters, and getting those e-mails sent to our website that we can send on to the police, that has not been possible before.
Fraud victim, Peggy: "I get around 100 letters a week"
"It's really important that we do that in order to collect that data, deter the criminals and educate the public," he said.
The e-mails received by Action Fraud will be forwarded to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau run by the City of London Police for collation and analysis.
Last year, more than 3,000 people reported being scammed but police believe many more are too embarrassed to admit they fell for them.
Mass marketing scams makes up a quarter of all reported fraud but accounts for 90% of losses, with the average victim who reports a fraud losing £27,000.
One victim, named only as Peggy, said she lost thousands of pounds after responding to requests for small amounts of money.
Received an e-mail scam?
Do not click on any links
Do not reply to the e-mail or contact the senders
If you have clicked on a link in the e-mail, do not supply any information on the website that may open
Do not open any attachments
Visit the Action Fraud website
"They are so cleverly written, that you think, 'Oh this is my salvation'. I just sent my money off and fingers crossed and I hoped that something would materialise but of course it never does," she said.
She said she now receives about 100 letters every week - telling her she might have won anything from a car to £2m.
Rosalind Wright, from the Fraud Advisory Panel, said the fraudsters were "very experienced" and "very good psychologists".
"They know exactly how to get into your confidence. That's exactly what they are - confidence tricksters - and they can fool anybody," she said.
|There seems to have been a sudden increase recently of people having their PC's and laptops infected with fake anti-virus systems. These virtually stop your system from working and try to trick you in to paying money on your credit card. Your existing anti virus software will never ask for payment to sort out your system so never give your credit card details. Give me a call to check if it's bona fide. If you've been afected and need your system fixing I can resolve it for a reasonable price.
Computer and laptop repairs in Billingham, Hartlepool, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Norton, Teesside and across Cleveland.
|While you are on-line even the best pop up blockers don't stop all pop up's. So you still need to be wary of any that tell you there are loads of problems with your computer or your system needs updating. It's a common trick to get you to click links which then install nasties. They can be so sophisticated and made to look like the real windows updates etc. The only windows updates the ones notified to you down near the clock on your screen. Any others are worth being careful about.
|Protect your home computer or you could unwittingly help to launch a cyber attack, experts are warning.
They say the rise in such attacks risks undermining critical national infrastructure and the future of the global economy.
Cyber expert: 'It is your responsibility to protect your computer from hijack'
Thousands of vulnerable personal computers are being signed up without their owner's knowledge to form "botnets", or "bot armies", sometimes spread across numerous geographical locations in countries all round the globe, experts have told BBC Newsnight.
These botnets are being used to launch so-called Distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks, which crash a website by flooding it with requests for information, or to harvest personal data such as credit card details or passwords.
Recent revenge attacks by the Anonymous hacktivist group against companies who distanced themselves from Wikileaks are one high-profile example where websites were crashed.
Now, governments are urging people to take personal responsibility for what they say could prove a much broader threat to our digital world.
Botnets, or infected computers, whether in a citizen's personal computer or a corporate computer, are being used to launch these DDoS attacks against key industries and against governments
Melissa Hathaway, former White House cyber tsar
Melissa Hathaway, former cyber tsar to US President George W Bush and a former advisor to President Barack Obama, told Newsnight:
"Botnets, or infected computers, whether in a citizen's personal computer or a corporate computer, are being used to launch these DDoS attacks against key industries and against governments, and so that would affect their ability to deliver essential services."
But on the day that the government has hailed the destruction of the last computers from the ID card database as a triumph of civil liberties, officials are clearly still working out how to sell us the idea that we should practice safe computing for a greater public good.
Well-placed sources say that in a world in which we are utterly dependent on digital systems, they are anxious to limit any opportunity for disruption of critical national infrastructures like energy, water, food distribution and transport - all of which rely on computerised systems.
But the government does not want to be seen to be curtailing individual freedom. It feels a need for some form of cyber "Green Cross Code" - without having to legislate.
Experts say that botnet technology is becoming increasingly accessible
Julian Midwinter works for i2, a company which provides software to governments, intelligence agencies and commercial companies to help unravel the architecture of a botnet, where it is being controlled from, and by whom.
"The majority of these botnets are harvesting financial and personal information for those criminal organisations that run those networks for more traditional fraud, for example accessing your bank account.
"There was one recent one from Canada involving 100,000 computers linked across 75 countries - the distribution was all around the world."
'Botnets for hire'
He also flagged up problems with how accessible botnet technology is becoming:
"Historically you used to have to be a technical expert, be a proper hacker, and be really interested in computers. These days you can effectively go down to the local DIY store and buy a botnet kit that comes ready configured, you just need to install it with some very basic installers and very limited technical capability - set it up and off it goes."
An infected computer could be part of a botnet without you knowing or realising, so the more you protect your own assets the less the risk is that your computer is part of a botnet, the smaller the potential of botnets are, and the smaller any of the future attacks would be
Tobias Wann, VeriSign Europe
Mr Midwinter told Newsnight about one group, calling itself the Iranian Cyber Army, which was recently found advertising a botnet-for-hire.
This, he said, is just one of many that are available online:
"They're on the darker fringes of the internet - in some countries it is easier to get to - in other countries they are harder to find.
"Some of them are very, very affordable… hundreds of pounds to get involved… some of them, depending on what you want to do, could be more expensive ."
Newsnight spoke to VeriSign, which runs the ".net" and ".com" domain names, and two of the internet's 13 so-called root name servers.
These are vital organs of the internet, without which you would not be able to send e-mails or link to websites.
Tobias Wann, of VeriSign Europe, told us his company's clients are having to deal with DDoS attacks in increasing number, and capacity.
He agrees that there is a need to foster personal responsibility on this issue:
"If you don't secure your computer and make it virus free there's a big risk your computer could be infected.
"An infected computer could be part of a botnet without you knowing or realising, so the more you protect your own assets the less the risk is that your computer is part of a botnet, the smaller the potential of botnets are, and the smaller any of the future attacks would be."
|Microsoft has issued a warning about a serious vulnerability in all versions of its Internet Explorer (IE) browser.
If exploited by a booby-trapped webpage the bug would allow attackers to take control of an unprotected computer.
Code to exploit the bug has already been published though Microsoft said it had no evidence it was currently being used by hi-tech criminals.
A workaround for the bug has been produced while Microsoft works on a permanent fix.
The bug revolves around the way that IE manages a computer's memory when processing Cascading Style Sheets - a widely used technology that defines the look and feel of pages on a website.
Hi-tech criminals have long known that they can exploit IE's memory management to inject their own malicious code into the stream of instructions a computer processes as a browser is being used. In this way the criminals can get their own code running and hijack a PC.
Microsoft has produced updates that improves memory management but security researchers discovered that these protection systems are not used when some older parts of Windows are called upon.
In a statement Microsoft said it was "investigating" the bug and working on a permanent fix. In the meantime it recommended those concerned use a protection system known as the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit.
Installing and applying the toolkit may require Windows XP users to update the version of the operating system they are using. But even if they do that some of the protection it bestows on Windows 7 and Vista users will not be available.
"We're currently unaware of any attacks trying to use the claimed vulnerability or of customer impact," said Dave Forstrom, the director of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing group, in a statement.
"As vulnerabilities go, this kind is the most serious as it allows remote execution of code," said Rik Ferguson, senior security analyst at Trend Micro, "This means the attacker can run programs, such as malware, directly on the victim's computer."
He added: "It is highly reminiscent of a vulnerability at the same time two years ago which prompted several national governments to warn against using IE and to switch to an alternative browser."
|Low-cost computers are to be offered as part of a government scheme to encourage millions of people in the UK to get online for the first time.
Prices will start at £98 for a refurbished PC, with subsidised net connections available for £9 a month.
The 12-month trial is part of the Race Online 2012 scheme, which aims to reach out to the 9.2 million adults in the UK who are currently offline.
Distributor Remploy hopes to sell 8,000 machines in the next 12 months.
"Motivation and inspiration are still two of the biggest barriers [to using the internet], but clearly perception of price is another big deal for people," Martha Lane Fox, the UK's digital champion, told the Financial Times. "A good price point is certainly part of what helps people get online."
Race Online 2012, which aims to "make the UK the first nation in the world where everyone can use the web", estimates that of the more than nine million adults in the UK who are currently not online, four million are socially and economically disadvantaged.
The cheap computers will run open-source software, such as Linux, and will include a flat-screen monitor, keyboard, mouse, warranty, dedicated telephone helpline and delivery.
The packages will be sold through 60 UK online centres which offer IT training and Remploy, an organisation that specialises in helping disabled and disadvantaged people find work and which runs the computer recycling scheme e-cycle.
Race Online 2012 has also negotiated cheap internet packages using a mobile dongle, costing £9 a month or £18 for three months, to help people access the web.
Its research suggests that going online can save people around £560 a year and that thousands of jobs are offered exclusively online.
But the cost of owning and running a computer and net connection is often seen as a barrier for many people.
As a result, there have been several previous government-sponsored initiatives that offered cheap PCs.
The £300m Home Access Scheme began to distribute free laptops to pupils from poor backgrounds in January 2010. It was scrapped by the coalition government eight months later.
It's so easy for internet service provides to publish super fast broadband rates but do you actually ever get near the speed they quote. The answer is simply No! There are some valid reasons such as quality of line, internet usage in the area etc but you can end up paying for 8mb broadband and only actually getting 1mb. Check your broadband real speed at the following website www.speedster.net and if it's way below what you are paying for then get on to your ISP. They might be able to sort it out or consider switching. Ofcom are looking at this at the moment but the big problem is the good old telephone lines simply cannot provide a decent speed the further from an exchange you are.
|Check out as far as possible any PC/Laptop engineer before you let them take your machine and all your files away for repair. Some have been known to copy customers photos etc and use them for their own means. Make sure they are registered with the Information Commissioners Office. I am and I'm happy to show you my original registration document (please ask before I come to see you so I can bring it with me). Check out my data protection page for more information.
|Some people have become victims of a scam where they have been contacted by people pretending to be from Microsoft to say a problem has been identified with their PC and wanting to remotely access the PC to fix it. Microsoft will never contact you in this way. You can get plenty of help on their website or via the telephone. Just hang up on those scammers. If you do think you might have a virus then give me a call for an affordable removal service.
|It's so important to keep your Windows systems up to date, especially the older ones such as Windows XP or Windows VISTA. Big updates are called Service Packs and XP now has 3 of them and VISTA has 2. If you don't have the latest Service Pack then Microsoft no longer support your system and this leaves security holes. So update to help keep hackers and viruses at bay. Updates also fix many problems too to help your computer or laptop work better. If you are not sure how to check you have all the updates etc then get in touch with me.