Safe online shopping awareness campaign for the upcoming high consumer season

Europol is launching the #SellSafe awareness campaign in November as part of a series of consumer protection and e-commerce initiatives in the run-up to the peak shopping season.

Online shoppers need to be more vigilant than ever as organised crime groups continually adapt their online fraud methods to defraud both citizens and e-commerce companies.

Since the start of the pandemic, many businesses have had to go online to continue their activities. At the same time, with people now using online services several times a week and increasingly shopping online, there is a much greater opportunity for attack by cybercriminals.

Even when online shopping has been made secure through the implementation of new technologies, such as secure customer authentication or two-factor authentication, cybercriminals still find ways to steal money from online shoppers.

Europol, together with the Merchant Risk Council and participating countries, has launched the #SellSafe, campaign, following the success of last year’s campaign, to highlight key tactics to combat online fraud. The aim of the campaign is to make e-commerce safer by promoting secure online shopping methods and helping new vendors to open their first online shop by minimising the risk of cyber-attacks.

Participating countries will promote the campaign through their social media channels using the hashtag #SellSafe to help consumers understand the risks of e-commerce fraud.

To protect consumers, Europol has provided a number of useful tips to try to keep them one step ahead of fraudsters and ensure they do not steal money.

Tips for protecting an e-business:

• Make sure all employees are aware of fraud issues affecting online shops.

• Stay up to date on the types of payment fraud that affect businesses and have the tools to prevent them. Your payments organisation will have details on the types of payment fraud.

• Get to know your customers so you can verify their payments.

Tips for online shoppers:

• Never send your card number, PIN or any other card information to anyone by email.

• Never send money to anyone you do not know.

• Always keep all documents related to your online purchases.

• If you don’t buy anything, never send your card details to anyone.


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Is technology efficient in the fight against domestic violence?

Domestic violence affects approximately one in three adults in the United States at some point in their lives. It represents more than 40% of all women’s murders: 856 women died in 2017, according to the latest official figures.

Law enforcement has an inefficient history of responding to the problem. According to a Justice Department report, domestic violence, as a category, generates the largest number of calls to police, but advocates for victims of domestic violence have long criticized police for not taking allegations of abuse seriously enough, or they respond with a narrow approach, focused on protection orders, arrests and trials, which do not always help the victims.

However, when one of the world’s largest technology companies, Ring, offers free cameras to help solve the problem, this can be an attractive proposition. Police believe that this could be an ever-available sentry guarding the homes of victims of repeated crimes.

When Ring’s pilot programs began in 2019, these were small in size. Bexar County set aside 50 cameras to protect victims of domestic violence and anyone with a protection order. San Antonio assigned 171 devices to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who had filed police reports. And in Cape Coral, where this program for fighting domestic violence was supposed to last a year, 100 devices were assigned to victims of domestic violence.

Former Cape Coral police chief David Newlan had the idea to implement the program in that city after a 2017 case in which a case of domestic violence turned into a murder-suicide. The perpetrator had been banned from approaching the victim by a restraining order and was required to wear an ankle bracelet controlled by a third party. On the day of the murder, the monitoring company did not notify the police when he violated the protection order when approaching the victim’s home.

Police departments want to know everything they legally can. But is growing surveillance technology in the public interest?

At least today, more than 1,800 U.S. law enforcement agencies use the Neighbours app, along with more than 360 fire departments. Ring associations, with many police forces using it, give the participating departments a much broader surveillance system than the police themselves could build legally.

The popularity of these programs is unclear. The San Antonio program distributed 158 of its 171 cameras. However, in the first year of the Bexar County program, no more than 15 victims opted for one of the 50 cameras, according to Rosalinda Hibron-Pineda, a victim services specialist at the sheriff’s office. And in Cape Coral, where there were 100 cameras available, only 24 had been given out.

Unless they give law enforcement the tools to arrest and imprison the assailants, the cameras would not be effective.


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Council adopts conclusions on sports-related violence ahead of the European football championship

The Council has adopted a series of conclusions on sports-related violence. In these conclusions the Council emphasises the unique challenge to security posed by the UEFA EURO championship, given that the competition will take place in 11 European cities simultaneously.

The Council emphasises that the organisers of major events taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic should continue to adopt measures and procedures that prevent the spread of the virus among all actors involved.

The Council also stresses the relevance of international police cooperation and information exchange to ensure a safe and secure competition. Acknowledging that monitoring the movement of risk supporters may be vital to prevent public disorder and associated criminal activity, it encourages effective international cooperation through the deployment of specialised law enforcement officers as well as other liaison officers, even if a sports event takes place without general public attending.

The Council recognises that, in view of several recent incidents of sports-related violence, it is crucial to address this issue beyond the sports venues themselves. The scope of preventive measures should be enlarged to cover locations such as public transport, hotels, training centres, night-life areas and other public spaces.

The Council stresses the importance of protecting public spaces and private spaces open to the public, namely through the implementation of security-by-design concepts and the use of surveillance and detection systems that incorporate artificial intelligence, while respecting fundamental rights. It also calls on member states to continue to monitor online content, with a view to preventing and mitigating the dissemination of messages that incite violence, extremism, radicalisation and xenophobia.

Lastly, the Council stresses the need for member states to increase the risk assessment of risk supporters, especially those with extremist ideologies, so as to identify, prevent and limit possible hostile and criminal activity during international sporting events.


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Crime prevention through environmental design gains popularity. The new ISO 22341 and other news

For years, criminology and other disciplines have raised the need for a cross-cutting, multi-actor approach to dealing with security.

One of the more structured cross-cutting approaches is Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) which, in essence, responds to the questions raised by environmental criminology through knowledge of how our surroundings (environment) condition security (and crime) and the methodologies that need to be designed and used to work in this field effectively. Although initially focused on the design of physical spaces, CPTED has since been extended to include social aspects relating to the movements and activities of the population within those spaces, a critical factor when considering security-related issues.

The approaches proposed by CPTED have been adopted, more or less implicitly, by influential organisations such as the European Forum for Urban Security (EFUS), the Spanish Forum for Prevention and Urban Security (FEPSU), and by several urban regeneration projects in various cities around us.

Recent developments have confirmed the growing influence of this perspective and increased recognition of its effectiveness. A long standardisation process finally resulted in the approval of technical recommendations (CEN/TR 14383-2) in 2007, and this year, an ISO has been approved globally, ISO 22341, demonstrating the consolidation of the approach. The ISO constitutes an agreement on the minimum standards required to ensure environmental design principles are respected in specific spaces and areas. While the standards may still be more centred on the more physical aspects of spaces, they confirm the movement’s widespread acceptance.

The European Cutting Crime Impact (CCI) project, of which the Ministry of Home Affairs is a member, has also included this approach to prevention among its four fundamental lines of work as an effective and reliable way to reduce insecurity and limit its impact.

In Catalonia, multiple security, criminology and police professionals have recognised the need for a structured approach to promoting this type of prevention, creating the Catalan Association for the Prevention of Insecurity through Environmental Design (ACPIDA), which will be launched publicly and begin its activities in the coming months. Integrated within the framework of the International Association for the Prevention of Crime through Environmental Design (ICA), it will provide training, information and advice in the field.

Finally, on a state level, a new Spanish publication called A guide to crime prevention. Security, urban design, citizen participation and police action, provides a clear and practical guide on how to apply the CPTED principles to public spaces. César San Juan and Laura Vozmediano, professors at the University of the Basque Country and prestigious authors in the field of environmental criminology, have made an effort to translate the principles into concrete actions that can act as a practical guide for a range of public security managers and actors when planning, renovating and organising public spaces. The work offers the considerable benefit of clarity and exemplification by specifying how public spaces should be designed and how the various actors involved must adopt CPTED principles in order to ensure the resulting spaces facilitate security and quality of life for all who use them.


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EU steps up support in the fight against the illicit arms trade

The EU will provide new funding for the effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

At the end of April, the European Council adopted a decision allowing the EU to support three projects of the ATT Secretariat in Geneva with a contribution of EUR 1.37 million.  The aim is to help the states party to the treaty to strengthen their national arms export control systems. Export control systems are key instruments for preventing the illicit trade and diversion of arms and contribute to more responsible trade in military equipment and technology.

More specifically, the EU’s support will enable the following actions:

– Training local and regional ATT experts to deliver implementation assistance and reduce reliance on external consultants.

– Creating a database to match treaty implementation needs and resources.

– Building IT and communications mechanisms to enable more effective cooperation between states and the ATT Secretariat.

The project also strengthens the ATT Secretariatʼs institutional capacity to provide sustainable support to the states party to the treaty. It fits within the recently adopted strategy to strengthen the EUʼs contribution to rules-based multilateralism by promoting global peace and security.

This decision is also part of the EUʼs long-standing support of the ATT.  In addition to facilitating early negotiations on the treaty, the EU has provided approx. EUR 15 million for numerous projects aimed at promoting its universal adoption and implementation.

The ATTʼs universal adoption and implementation are crucial to the reduction of violence and human suffering in conflict-affected regions. In force since December 2014, the Arms Trade Treaty regulates international trade in conventional arms, their parts and ammunition, with the goal of eradicating the illicit sale and diversion thereof. All EU Member States are parties to the Treaty.

The ATT Secretariat manages the reporting by states, their national points of contact, and national control lists. In addition to organising the conferences of states and work sessions, it also administers the ATT Voluntary Trust Fund, which assists states’ implementation of the Treaty.


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“Perception Matters”: a guide to managing outbreaks of insecurity

The Cutting Crime Impact project (CCI), funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme, aims to prevent ordinary crime (non-organised crime) where possible and, should it occur, reduce its impact. To this end, the project will address four focus areas: predictive policing, community policing, crime prevention through urban design & planning and citizens’ perceptions of insecurity. The project will develop tailored “tool kits” for each of the four focus areas that law enforcement agencies can use to achieve the project’s goals.

Regarding the perception of security or subjective security, the Ministry of Home Affairs, as a partner in the project, was tasked with designing a tool that can help to enhance citizens’ feelings of security. The chosen formula for the tool was a guide called “Perception matters”, which provides practical and useful advice to security managers dealing with the public’s response to outbreaks of insecurity in specific areas of the city. Manifestations of feelings of insecurity are often linked to particular neighbourhoods and even certain times of the day. A standard, generic response is doomed to failure; an at least somewhat in-depth (and, if possible, quick) analysis is needed to identify the reasons behind that particular outbreak of insecurity (rather than insecurity in general) in order to adopt measures that specifically address those causes.

Security officials come under a lot of pressure when there is a public manifestation of insecurity or fear of crime. This pressure often prevents them from having enough time and space to analyse the situation properly, leading them to fall back on routine and highly visible actions that may reduce public and political pressure but do nothing to solve the problem. The “Perception Matters” guide contains simple and practical criteria that those tasked with responding to public manifestations of insecurity can use to identify which urgent measures, if any, they should take. Once those urgent measures have been implemented, security managers should conduct an in-depth analysis of the situation to inform a more comprehensive response with short, medium and long-term measures, rather than relying on actions that may “divert” attention away from the problem but, in the end, often help to entrench it further.

“Perception Matters” comprises five documents that make up a single strategy. They can be used in conjunction with one another or separately. Booklet 1 constitutes the guide, in the strictest sense of the word. It covers the key questions that anyone with security management responsibilities should ask in the event of an insecurity incident. It also lists the sources that security officials can refer to for more information. At the end of the booklet, some of the concepts to be considered when managing subjective insecurity crises are clarified to improve understanding of the dynamics involved in these types of situations.

Booklet 2 helps us assess whether we are dealing with an incident that requires urgent, immediate action, while continuing with a more comprehensive analysis of the problem. The document includes indicators that can be used to decide whether urgent measures are required or not and recommendations for the type of measures that can be employed.

Booklet 3 provides a straightforward account of the various research methodologies used in social science and practical advice on how they should be managed to obtain the required information without resorting to long-winded reflection procedures. Rather than being a methodology manual, the booklet aims to offer advice on how some methodologies can be used as a simple and effective tool for improving our diagnosis of insecurity.

Booklet 4 offers the reader a set of criteria that can be used to design targeted measures that address the specific contributing factors behind an outbreak of insecurity so that it can be contained and reversed. Various types of cross-cutting short, medium and long-term measures are suggested. It also includes a link to documents that compile good practices in this field.

Booklet 5 offers, on the one hand, guidelines to understanding the importance of communicating with the public in matters of subjective security, and on the other, the criteria that should be followed to ensure that communication leads to an improvement in the public’s perception of security or, at the very least, does not aggravate it further in times of crisis.

In short, rather than attempting to offer new insight into the matter, the guide intends to set out the existing knowledge in a simple and, we hope, efficient way to facilitate the orderly and agile management of outbreaks of insecurity in our cities and public spaces. You can access the guide from the Ministry of Home Affairs website


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How to prevent scams in online shopping

Europol has designed a programme, launched this November, that seeks to prevent scams in online shopping over the upcoming high-consumption dates. The biggest retail season of the year is almost here, and you do not even need to leave the comfort of your home to participate. However, neither do cyber criminals.

Easy website design, increased social media traffic and convenience have made buying and selling online products a mainstay of the modern shopping experience. The COVID-19 pandemic has further driven consumers to do their shopping online. For companies, this trend poses both challenges and significant opportunities.  More sales and more traffic mean more revenue. But it also means more fraud, as criminals have even more opportunities to steal from both consumers and merchants. So, how should retailers prepare?

Through an awareness campaign launched in mid-November, law enforcement agencies from 16 countries have teamed up with Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and the Merchant Risk Council to share practical tips on how to outwit criminals trying to abuse the online shopping experience.

This awareness campaign is being carried out under the umbrella of the 2020 e-Commerce Action (eComm 2020) led by Europol. This year’s campaign has a special focus on e-merchants, helping them to better identify fraud on their platforms and allowing them to take steps to protect their business and customers against such attacks.

Law enforcement agencies and key retail partners will share the messages of the campaign using the #SellSafe hashtag to reach the widest possible audience.

The threat posed by these criminals is very real: in the lead-up to this campaign, several countries carried out operational actions which resulted in the arrest of 22 cyber criminals in the month of October alone. The awareness campaign launched in November is based on the experience of investigations carried out by law enforcement agencies against fraudulent orders of various kinds, and seeks to help traders better recognise and address the security shortcomings of their platforms.

Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre has produced some guidelines for traders:

Know your product: a greater risk is entailed by the sale of some items than others. For example, selling small items that can be easily re-sold, and for which there is already a high demand, is riskier than selling personal customised items.

Know your customer: if you accept card payments and send valuable products to your customers, you’d like to know who you are sending them to, right?

Establish a safe payment method: your card administrator can advise you on this. By choosing a safe payment method, you will limit the risk of fraud.

• Use a reliable delivery service: choose a delivery method to ensure professional handling of your goods and possible claims of non-delivery.


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Representatives of hundreds of cities around the world call for halving violence by 2030

The Executive Committee of the Global Parliament of Mayors (GPM) will deliver an international resolution to accelerate efforts to halve violence by 2030 to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The GPM, together with Peace in Our Cities, launched this resolution in June 2020. It has been signed by more than 60 cities together with city networks representing over 1,500 cities and metropolitan areas.

GPM Mayor Marvin Rees handed-over the resolution at the UN International Day of Peace “Peace One Day”, a one-day gathering of global human rights champions to promote peace and violence reduction. The GPM and Peace in Our Cities are working with Pathfinders, a coalition of 36 national governments and 100 non-governmental partners, to accelerate action and investment in peace, justice and inclusion worldwide.

The global challenge of violence demands a global response. While national governments are key to preventing conflict, fighting crime and reducing domestic violence, cities are even more central players when it comes to preventing and reducing violence.

The resolution is the result of the first time that cities from around the world have come together to form a common position on violence prevention and reduction. Alongside the GPM and Peace In Our Cities is the European Forum for Urban Security (EFUS), the African Forum for Urban Security (AFUS), the Mayors Migration Council (MMC), Strong Cities Network (SCN) and the US Conference of Mayors (USCM).

The COVID-19 pandemic is contributing to devastating social, economic and political consequences around the world. It is also increasing the risk of organised and interpersonal violence in upper, middle and low-income settings alike. Women and children, in particular, are experiencing a greater risk of violence, especially at home and online, as are the most vulnerable, including displaced people and those living in conflict-affected areas. The threat of criminal violence is also rising, as is the spectre of social and political unrest. These challenges are faced most acutely in cities.

The resolution commits city leaders to significantly reduce all forms of lethal violence in cities, invest in evidence-based solutions, work in partnerships with national and international organisations, focus on the most vulnerable communities, empower survivors and young people, break intergenerational cycles of violence, and tackle digital extremism.


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Advances in Justice, Human Rights, and Security in Central America

Countries like El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala face enduring challenges in addressing insecurity, impunity and corruption. Policymakers need answers to determine better strategic methods of improving governance in the region.

As WOLA explains, the Central America Monitor is an ongoing project that involves collecting data on a series of qualitative and quantitative indicators in eight key areas related to security, justice and human rights.

The Monitor website offers infographics and reports that examine the measures that each country is taking to strengthen the rule of law and security.

The data collected and analysed has revealed trends and areas of concern in the region, including the following:

  • Across the region, significant advances were made in tackling corruption. However, challenges remain in updating or reforming existing legislation, and in some cases, regressive laws were adopted. The ability of the three countries to stop corruption from flourishing is an especially urgent but complicated issue amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • While transparency laws and mechanisms exist across the region, some synergies prevent public officials and institutions from reporting the information diligently. For example, some of the institutions examined, specifically the security and defence ministries, are falling short in terms of making important information about how they function available to the public. In Honduras, for example, the body responsible for reviewing financial disclosures by public officials has no way of proactively determining that the information is truthful and accurate.
  • Even though Honduras and Guatemala have adopted measures aimed, in principle, at creating an enabling environment for the exercise of protecting human rights, high levels of impunity persist for crimes involving human rights violations, killings and threats against human rights defenders. Notably, in a worrying trend, in Guatemala and Honduras, criminal law is frequently abused in an attempt to prevent or halt the work of human rights defenders. In Honduras, 141 human rights defenders were killed between 2014 and 2017.
  • Specialised legislation has been adopted to help prevent, detect and combat violence and organised crime. While general homicide rates decreased, violence and insecurity remain the primary concerns for the population. In El Salvador, nine out of 10 kidnapping cases taken on by the Attorney General’s Office were archived.
  • Justice systems across the region are understaffed and facing threats that compromise their independence. These issues compromise the ability of justice systems to investigate and prosecute crimes efficiently. For example, in 2014, in Guatemala, only 2 per cent of the complaints presented to the Attorney General’s Office ended with convictions.


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Could we reduce most types of violence by half?


Violence has long been one of the most significant global challenges for humankind. Hundreds of millions of men, women and children have been killed or affected by armed conflicts, crimes, extremisms, sexual violence and gender-based violence.

Violence corrodes our democratic institutions and undermines fundamental human rights. An increase in some kinds of collective violence is also possible during the next decade, primarily motivated by the pressures of climate change and insecurities surrounding new technologies.

Nonetheless, although it hasn’t made the headlines, the last half century has made some progress towards preventing and reducing many types of violence.

Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that this relatively recent downward trend will continue as we move further into the twenty-first century. But with targeted and financially sustainable interventions, especially in cities, levels of many types of violence may continue to decline. This, in fact, is one of the main aspirations of The world has a genuine opportunity to halve its current levels of violence by 2030. To achieve this, we have to take stock of where we’re at today and make decisions about where we want to be in the future. This is what bold initiatives such as the Pathfinders Partnership are trying to answer.

It’s important to reflect on the number of people affected by violence. Although it’s difficult to measure precisely, up to 600,000 people, including almost 100,000 women and children, die worldwide as a consequence of conflicts, crimes, extremist violence and extrajudicial circumstances. Millions more are left physically or psychologically wounded by wars, criminality, and sexual or gender-based violence. More than 40 million people are displaced by violence, including 26 million refugees. If we do not take measures to change our current course, there’s no guarantee that these trends will improve in the next decade. However, if measures are taken to reverse these trends, we could save, literally, hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in reconstruction, repairs, productivity losses and insurance claims.

The first step towards effectively reducing violence by 2030 is to develop a clear understanding of how it is distributed in time and space. Take the case of lethal violence. There is a common misconception that more people are violently killed in war zones than in countries at peace.

The second step is to determine where the violence is concentrated and who is most at risk from it. A sizeable quota of all violence (deaths, injuries and rape) is concentrated in our cities.

The third step is to recognise the risk factors that lead to different types of violence. Although violence is a multifactoral problem, some recurrent risks stand out. Social and economic inequality, for example.

Reducing violence by 50% over the next ten years will require unprecedented levels of global cooperation. But there are good reasons for optimism. For the first time, the UN and the World Bank have united behind a common framework for preventing conflicts. UN organisations like the United Nations Office on drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have committed to reducing violence. UN Women has announced a spotlight initiative to end violence against women, and UNICEF has joined forces with others to extend the reach of the INSPIRE strategies and help governments improve safety for all. Another promising initiative is the global campaign to end violence against children, which has already raised close to 38 million dollars.


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