One in seven online shoppers (14%) in the UK*, has fallen victim to identity theft, around three times the number in Germany (3%), Spain (5%) and France (6%).
The findings come from PayPal's 'Global Trust and Safety Report', which surveyed 6,000 people from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The report examined online security fears and habits and found that half (49%) of online users in the UK are 'very concerned' about identity theft and when people are victims of this crime they often have no idea how it occurred.
Fears of identity theft may be widespread, yet online users are underestimating their own role in preventing it happening with many choosing weak or obvious passwords for accounts; more than half (53%) of users across all six countries admit to using important personal dates or names. However the report did find that attitudes to password security do vary between different cultures. Over four in 10 (42%) people in the UK use an important date or name for their password, compared to only 35% of Spaniards. The French came out as taking the most risks with their password with 63% choosing a password that could be easily guessed.
Michael Barrett, chief information security officer for PayPal said, "This survey shows that while concerns about ID theft form a universal language, more identity theft tends to occur in countries where a higher percentage of e-commerce is concentrated. But e-commerce is growing in prominence around the world, and fraudsters will likely follow the money. Consumers everywhere can stay one step ahead and better protect themselves online by following a few simple tips."
However, choosing stronger passwords may not help in some situations, as the report found online consumers are willing to divulge their password information to others. More than a third of online shoppers in the U.K (35%) have shared their password information with a family member compared to just over a quarter (25%) in Germany admitting to telling a family member their password.
Online security is also being undermined as detailsdetails are displayed on popular social networking site: one in seven (14%) 'social networkers' in the UK admit to displaying password related information on a social networking page, which could ultimately lead to identity theft.
The PayPal study also found that a number of identity theft victims say they have no idea how the theft occurred, with 40% in the UK are clueless as to how their information was obtained. In fact, more than half of identity theft victims in the UK (52%) had to be contacted by their bank or credit card provider before they were even aware their identity had been stolen.
* Percentage references are extrapolated by way of a sample surveyed as part of the 2008 PayPal Trust and Safety Study which was conducted by Ipsos Research from May 28 - June 3 in the United States, and August 15 - 25 in Europe. The e-mail survey reached 1,000 panelists in each of six countries: the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. All respondents had shopped online in the past 60 days. Quotas for age, gender and PayPal usage were set during the survey to ensure representative populations in each of the six countries.