Seven out of 10 Britons fear the recession will increase the chances of them falling victim to identity theft and consequent crimes, says a study published today.
The latest Unisys Security Index, which measures consumers perceptions about computer security, found 72% of Britons believed they were more at risk of becoming victims of e-criminals as a result of the recession.
Almost nine out of 10 were worried that others could obtain details of their bank, credit and debit card accounts, and then gain unauthorised access or abuse them.
Figures released by Apacs, the payments industry body, suggest consumers are right to worry. According to Apacs, fraudon UK plastic cards rose 14% to £609m last year.
Ian Readhead, director of information for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said he doubted whether the recession drove e-crime. This was despite the study finding that 58% of Britons were increasingly worried about being able to meet their mortgage repayments and other living costs.
Describing e-crime as an opportunistic crime, he said stronger motivations were the low risk of being caught and how easy it is to repeat these crimes.
He acknowledged that these factors attracted more organised, better financed criminals, and this pushed up the risks to consumers.
Consumers were aware of this, the study showed.
The worry index on online security rose from 105 a year ago to a record 121. Nearly seven out of 10 consumer were more worried about the security of their computers and about the security of their online transactions.
Consumers were also more worried about the terrorism threat, with 82% reporting concern, compared to 75% a year ago, the study said.
The Unisys Security Index is a global study of consumer attitudes to information security. In the past year the UK's score rose from 117 to 135. This pointed to a significant rise in consumer angst, the authors said.