People were exploited by hackers more than 180 times in Wiltshire last year.

Police in the county have issued advice after research by laid bare the scale of damage caused.

The website analysed data from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau on 43 police forces and constabularies to establish which areas of England and Wales experienced the most social media and email hacking cases between January and December 2020.

Across the region, there were 13,343 cases of social media and email hacking recorded. The accumulative financial loss that victims suffered was an astronomical £3,573,079.

Wiltshire Police placed 29th place on their list, as they received 188 reported cases of social media and email hacking from January to December 2020. During this period, April ( with 24 cases) was the worst month.

From those who were targeted, the financial loss equated to around £3,700.

January alongside December saw the least number of cases at 11 each.

Detective Sergeant for Wiltshire Police's digital investigations and intelligence unit, Ian Magrath, described the lasting effect an incident such as this could have.

He said: “Wiltshire Police continue to receive reports of hacking of both personal and business related email as well as social media accounts from Action Fraud. Such accounts are specifically targeted by hackers as once access is gained they have control over close family and friends whom they can manipulate for funds or other goods. The loss of an email account is particularly damaging as it is also often linked to a host of other accounts that individuals have, from bank and phone accounts, to home utilities and social groups. All this information can be then used to digitally profile an individual.

He added: “Personal credentials, such as usernames and passwords, can be stolen directly from you by criminals using tricks such as phishing emails. They can also be stolen by hackers from the services you use, if they suffer a data breach. If you suspect either has happened, you should change your password as soon as possible. If you have used the same password on any other accounts, you should change it there too. For home users we would advise that you create passwords using three random words, an example of this could be ‘orangedancekeys’.You can choose words that are memorable but should avoid those which might be easy to guess, such as 'onetwothree' or are closely related to you personally, such as the names of family members or pets.

“You could also consider using a password manager to help you store your online passwords securely. For additional security on your most important online accounts you should enable two factor authentication (2FA). This provides an extra layer of security and requires a unique one time code to gain entry to accounts as well as the password.

“Services such as can tell you if your information has ever been made public in a major data breach, and even alert you if it happens in the future.”

Metropolitan Police had the highest amount of social media and email hacking cases last year, with 2,357 reports, the equivalent of six incidents per day in the capital. From the 2,357 cases, the collective financial loss victims suffered was £1.8 million - equivalent to £764 per case.

In second place is West Midlands Police with 630 incidences of social media and email hacking reported in 2020. Victims who fell prey to the cybercrime in the West Midlands incurred an overall monetary downfall of £382,400.

Thames Valley Police are in third place as they received 547 reported cases of social media and email hacking from January to December 2020 and from those who were targeted, the financial loss equated to £43,400; that is comparable to a personal loss of £79 for each individual case.

On the other end in 43rd position is City of London Police who had only 26 cases of social media and email hacking.

Slightly above City of London Police in 42nd spot is Dyfed-Powys Police, with the Welsh force reporting 95 incidences of social media and email hacking. Despite having such a low sum of incidents, the amassed financial loss the 95 victims experienced was a sizeable £32,000 – equivalent to the average annual salary of a full-time worker in the UK.