A NEW campaign has been launched to ensure residents across the county do not become victims of cyber-crime.

Cheshire Police and Get Safe Online launched the safe social media campaign designed to help people use social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter more safely.

It comes as experts warn identity theft is reaching “epidemic levels”, with people in their thirties the most targeted group.

ID fraudsters obtain personal information before pretending to be that individual and apply for loans or store cards in their name.

A total of 89,000 cases were recorded in the first six months of the year by UK anti-fraud organisation Cifas – a five per cent rise on the same period last year and a new record high.

The new campaign in Cheshire includes a short guide with simple safety tips on how people can protect themselves from accidentally disclosing private information to cyber criminals, what is and isn’t appropriate to post online and age limits for children on popular sites.

The launch deliberately coincides with summer holiday season, a time when many share experiences and pictures on social media accounts.

Experts say that in doing so, people often inadvertently reveal the location of their children, and also that their homes are empty.

Det Sgt Brian Faint, of the force’s economic crime unit, said: “It is really imperative you stay safe online when using your social media accounts to protect you, your family and your personal property.

“Criminals thrive on obtaining your personal information from these accounts to commit fraud, cyber and cyber enabled crime.

“Without your information they cannot commit this crime, therefore I urge you to think before you post any social media messages and ask yourself who will access this information.”

Tony Neate, chief executive of Get Safe Online, said: “Social media is one of the best ways to keep in touch with friends and family and share photos and videos.

“As peak summer holiday season kicks in, who doesn’t like to show off when they’re lying on the beach on a Monday morning instead of heading into the office?

“There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do all of those things on your social media accounts as long as you don’t put yourself or private information
at risk.

“If your social media accounts are open for anyone to see and you post that you’re heading off to Greece for a week, you’re effectively putting an advert out online letting people know your home is going to be empty for a week too.

“However, social media has become the tool of choice for most burglars.

“But our tips aren’t designed to frighten you or put you off using social media … just how to have a safe and enjoyable online experience.”

Simon Dukes, chief executive of Cifas, said: “We have seen identity fraud attempts increase year on year, now reaching epidemic levels, with identities being stolen at a rate of almost 500 a day.

“These frauds are taking place almost exclusively online.

“The vast amounts of personal data that is available either online or through data breaches is only making it easier for the fraudster.”

l FOR more information and impartial advice on protecting yourself, your family, your business, your computer and mobile devices while online, visit www.getsafeonline.org