Almost half of the UK population fear that their personal identity is at risk from online fraudsters, research released today has claimed.
A survey commissioned by communications consultancy Glasshouse Partnership revealed that a startling 17 per cent of British consumers have direct or indirect experience of ID theft.
Londoners were the most affected, with 28 per cent of respondents from the capital being personally exposed to the dangers of ID fraud. In contrast, residents of Scotland were the safest, with just 13 per cent indicating that they had experienced ID theft.
The poll of 1,936 consumers suggested that the growing impact of ID fraud may be having a knock-on effect on economic decision-making.
Some 45 per cent of consumers are concerned about buying goods online, a figure which ranges from 32 per cent among 18-29 year olds to 58 per cent of the over 50s. Women are particularly concerned over the perceived dangers (52 per cent, compared to 36 per cent of men).
Such is their concern, 57 per cent of consumers indicated that they would be willing to pay more for a safer financial system, and 69 per cent would accept a slower but safer service.
The research also suggests that this figure is set to escalate, as more and more people are exposed to the crime. Among the 17 per cent of respondents who have been victims, or who know a victim, this 'fear' figure is already at 61 per cent.
The public also believes in a greater role for the police. Around 56 per cent believe that the police should do more to prevent ID theft, and 55 per cent believe that investigating every reported incident would be likely to reduce the crime.
Some 58 per cent agree that the police would need more resources in order to do so, and almost 70 per cent believe that tougher sentencing would be likely to reduce the crime.
While consumers acknowledge personal responsibility in the fight against ID theft (71 per cent say that individuals could do more), they also expect more from banks (86 per cent), government (74 per cent) and retailers (64 per cent).
When asked about the proposed National Identity Register, just one in three UK citizens believes that the scheme is critical to reducing ID fraud, and only 33 per cent consider it vital in defeating terrorism.
Furthermore, just one in four citizens trusts the government not to abuse their personal data. But this concern should not be taken as a green light for private contractors to step in, according to the respondents.
Despite believing in a systemic response, just one in 20 citizens trusts private organisations to run the National Identity Register.
James Thellusson, managing partner at Glasshouse Partnership, said: "If the level of ID fraud increases we will see an impact on consumer shopping habits and choice of brands.
"Those companies best able to reassure customers that their systems are more robust will be able to win out in the battle for customers.
"Victims of ID fraud say they are let down by the way companies handle them. Companies which fail to respond to this complaint by improving their customer support services will lose customers and risk damaging their reputations."
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