Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 11:25 UK

Recession-hit UK 'fears ID theft'

Facebook website
Do people put too much information on Facebook?

Nearly three-quarters of UK consumers think that they are at greater risk of identity theft and credit card fraud as a result of the world financial crisis.

The findings come in the latest Unisys Security Index, a bi-annual global study into consumer security concerns.

Nearly 9 out of 10 people were concerned about people accessing their personal information and using it.

Some 88% were worried about people gaining access to and misusing their bank details.

Concerns regarding financial security now exceed 2007 levels - when the nation witnessed a run on Northern Rock.

In the UK, the security index, which rates on a scale of 0 to 300 with 300 being total fear, has jumped 20 per cent, from 125 a year ago to 150.

This trend is also echoed in the US, Germany and Spain where rising financial security scores are the greatest security concern for consumers.

Naive recruits

The government needed to take a lead on educating the public more about the pitfalls of being online, including how much information they give out, said Unisys UK managing director Duncan Tait.

"You don't need to do many searches and look at Facebook to work out names, mother's maiden name, favourite pet and addresses. We have a generation who share that information as a matter of course and for people who chose to make a living [from other people's information] it is gold," he said.

Angela Sasse, Professor of Human-Centred Technology at University College, London, said the recession was drawing inexperienced surfers into potentially dangerous online transactions.

"More and more people are tempted to try and either sell a few things or cut costs and buy stuff from, say, an auction website. This is an opportunity for career criminals as you get a whole new market of naive recruits," she said.

Online banks offering better interest rates are also likely to attract people with no previous surfing experience.

"People may be tempted by the savings but don't have the experience or skill to be able to tell the difference between a real e-mail and a phishing scam," she said.

Green cross code

Original Green Cross Code man with children
Acpo calls for Green Cross code for internet

She called on banks to offer more direct interaction with customers or online training before accounts are activated.

Acpo (The Association for Chief Police Officers) believes a "green cross code" for the online world could be the answer.

"We need a good communication strategy - government led - so that people know that if people put their passwords on their phone and you don't lock your phone you create vulnerability. If you use a memory stick, you need fingerprint aspects.

It becomes like a green cross code of technology, easy to understand and a way of changing how we do everyday things,"" said Ian Reidhead, director of information at Acpo

He said that the police had seen a growth in in e-crime as the recession bites.

In order to cope with demand he said that the police central e-crime unit, which works closely with the Serious Fraud Office, will have to get bigger.

"Resources need to be committed. It is a very small unit," he said.

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