ONLINE fraud is estimated to cost Hartlepool internet users more than £300,000 a year.
Fraudsters use malicious software known as ransomware to target internet users and dupe them into handing over money.
Tactics include using the ransomware to encrypt and block files on a user’s computer before demanding money to unlock them.
According to online cash payment provider Ukash, the scam cost people in Hartlepool £314,730 last year while web users across the country forked out £216m.
The firm has now set up a free site in partnership with Action Fraud UK and Europol to give people advice on how to avoid being duped.
David Cox, head of customer experience for Ukash, said: “We’ve seen a sharp rise in online ransomware scams in the last 12 months, with many internet users feeling powerless to prevent it happening to them. We also noticed that there was no single, central hub of expert advice and information available online to help those most affected.
“I’d recommend all internet users check out the site as prevention is better than the cure. The nation being more clued-up to the latest ransomware scams is the only way we’ll defeat this global problem.”
The website can be found at www.avoidonlinescams.net