One in eight gets offensive e-mails

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The Independent Online

The scale of harassment over the internet has been revealed for the first time by an official study.

One in eight people have received an offensive or harassing e-mail in the past year, figures from the Home Office showed.

The research, based on data from the annual British Crime Survey, also found that one in 11 people had received an offensive text message or telephone message. The report also found that nearly one in five homes that had internet access had been affected by a computer virus.

The report concluded that men aged between 26 and 30 were the most likely to have been the victims of harassment by e-mail but women were more likely than men to have received offensive messages by telephone.

The study uncovered widespread concern about internet harassment with one-third of people reporting that they were worried about receiving offensive, pornographic or threatening material on their home computers.

Just over two per cent of people who were questioned in the study reported that they suspected someone had hacked into their computer.

Questionnaires, sent out in 2002 and 2003, represented the first large-scale surveys of mobile telephone and internet harassment.