NEARLY £400,000 has been lost by people in West Mercia who have fallen victim to cyber crime.

The police are warning people to be wary of cyber criminals and urging people to follow some steps to avoid being caught out.

The advice comes shortly after the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau provided police forces across England and Wales with individual annual fraud and cyber profiles.

The data shows the total financial loss reported by individuals and businesses from April 2013 to the end of March 2014 in West Mercia was about £8.6 million.

The equivalent total figure for cyber crime was around £590,000 across the alliance area, with a peak in the amount of money lost in December due to online purchases increasing over the Christmas period.

The loss for the 2013 and 2014 financial year in West Mercia was around £394,000.

The top cyber crimes in the area were computer virus, malware and spyware scams with 264 reported, followed by hacking, social media and e-mail scams, with 148 of these reported.

Barrie Sheldon, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia, said: "Cyber crime is continuing to provide new and demanding challenges for the police service which is why we provided extra resources to West Mercia Police when setting the budget earlier in the year to more effectively address the problem.

"I would also encourage businesses and residents to know the risks and take precautions to protect themselves when they venture into cyberspace."

Detective Chief Inspector Sean Paley, from Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police specialist operations unit, added: "Research has shown that many of these losses are preventable with some simple steps around anti-virus and keeping vigilant about how we use the internet.

"Updating software and anti-virus systems can prevent people falling victim and it is really important to have the latest security software installed on computers to enable safe shopping and banking online.

"Basic information risk management can prevent around 80 per cent of cyber attacks suffered by businesses."

Action Fraud received just under 5,000 reports of fraud from victims in West Mercia in 2013 and 2014. Where the victim is vulnerable or the crime is in action, local officers are deployed to investigate the case.

The top fraud type by volume was cheque, plastic card and online bank accounts, not payment service providers, with 1,366 incidents. Online shopping and auctions was next with 752.

In one case officers from the Economic Crime Unit recovered £100,000 for one victim, demonstrating that the ability to act swiftly, in partnership with the banking sector, deters and disrupts criminals seeking to exploit vulnerable victims.

To contact Action Fraud visit or call 0300 123 2040.