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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Public worried by online ID theft
A collection of credit cards
The public are worried about credit card readers
Concerns about identity theft are beginning to put people off shopping and banking online.

In a survey commissioned by software firm Intervoice, 17% of people said they had stopped banking online while 13% had abandoned web shopping.

Technologies such as online check-out services and credit card readers were pinpointed as potential ID risks.

More than half thought that the government's proposed ID card was the best way to combat identity theft.

Concerns about how secure identity is online have risen following high-profile phishing attacks.

The term refers to the practice of creating look-alike websites, often of banks and other financial institutions, and duping people into visiting them and giving out personal information such as pin numbers and passwords.

General confusion

36% rank technologies such as credit card readers and online checkouts highest on their list of worries
25% are worried about their paper receipts
16% are concerned about giving passwords out to friends and family
14% are worried about shop employees
9% worried about what companies do with their data
Despite online concerns, it is an offline solution that is seen as the best way to tackle identity fraud.

Fifty seven percent saw ID cards as the best way to protect themselves against identity theft.

This surprised George Platt, general manager of Intervoice, which provides voice automation software.

"An identity card doesn't really help the problem of identity theft other than at the point of purchase," he said.

The result could reflect general confusion as to what identity theft is and how best to combat it, he thinks.

He believes alternatives such as biometric voice verification could provide greater security.

Such a technology could help in call centres which are targeted by identity thieves as another potential source of information about an individual.

Stealing identities is often a piecemeal affair, as thieves garner small bits of information bit by bit and gradually create a persona.

Dumpster diving

Man reading paper beside a bin
Be careful what you throw away

It is a growing problem both in Europe and the US.

A survey by Which? Magazine found that a quarter of UK adults had either been the victim of identity fraud or knew someone who had.

To highlight how easy it can be to steal a person's ID, Which? researchers decided to try to steal the identity of a volunteer.

By accessing public documents and posing as the volunteer, the researcher managed to get hold of the volunteer's birth certificate, mother's maiden name, place of birth, mortgage details and even how often they went to the gym.

One of the easiest ways thieves get hold of personal information is by going through bins, a practise known in the US as dumpster diving.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, 9.9 million Americans have been the victims of identity theft at an average cost per person of $5,000 (2,700)

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