Identity Theft Twice as Likely in English-Speaking Countries
21 Oct 2008
PayPal Trust and Safety Study Reveals that Online Fraud and Identity Theft are Global Concerns

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Online consumers in English-speaking countries are the most frequent victims of identity theft, twice the rate of France, Germany and Spain, according to a new study released by PayPal. With the holiday season fast approaching, three quarters of online shoppers worldwide are concerned about online scams or identity theft. The research, conducted by Ipsos, examined online security fears and habits in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The survey found that 10 percent of online shoppers in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. had experienced identity theft. This compares with only five percent in France, Germany and Spain. Approximately 25 percent of online shoppers in the three English-speaking countries knew friends or family who had their identities stolen.

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, said Michael Barrett, chief information security officer for PayPal. 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.

While choosing and safeguarding passwords is one of the most important factors to online security, attitudes and behaviors vary greatly between cultures. German consumers are the most vigilant with passwords. Only about one in four (28 percent) has ever shared an account password with a family member or friend. This compares with 60 percent of Americans and 56 percent of French consumers who shared passwords. Consequently, Germans also experienced the fewest problems with identity theft -- only three percent of German consumers have experienced identity theft, and fewer than one in 10 knows someone who has.

Almost half of consumers in all countries surveyed use important dates, family member names, nicknames or pets names as their online passwords. French and Spanish consumers are most lax when it comes to updating their passwords. Sixty-one percent of French consumers and 63 percent of Spanish consumers change their passwords less than once per year or only when required to do so.

The survey found that about 40 percent of consumers in all six countries use social networking sites, and some of these consumers display personal information that they also use for passwords. More than one in four French consumers display their birth dates on social networking sites and also use birth dates as online passwords. Less than 10 percent of consumers in the UK and Canada do the same.

Other Global Findings

  • Spanish consumers are relatively new to e-commerce, and more than 80 percent of those respondents said they are concerned that products purchased online will not be as pictured or expected, will be of poor quality, or will not arrive at all.
  • Privacy is the number one concern among Canadians, with more than half (53 percent) indicating that they are very concerned about protecting their privacy.
  • Consumers in Germany, the UK and Canada are least likely to store their passwords on their browsers (70 percent, 61 percent and 58 percent, respectively, never do so). About half of the consumers in the U.S., France and Spain store passwords on their browsers.
  • Americans are most likely to write down their passwords in order to remember them (36 percent do so). Fewer than 20 percent of consumers in all other countries surveyed write down passwords.
  • More than half of all consumers receive financial statements in the mail. Only 17 percent of consumers in France and 23 percent of consumers in Spain own shredders, compared to a large majority in all other countries.

Online Safety Tips and Resources

PayPal recently launched a new microsite (https://www.paypal-promo.com/safety/) designed to help Internet users learn how to protect themselves online. Designed as a secret-agent game, users can design their own avatars, participate in training and take a trivia quiz to earn their stripes as a safety agent. It also includes a safety calculator, where consumers answer a series of questions to find out how safe their personal information may be online.

The site also offers a few simple tips to help consumers protect their personal and financial information.

1. Use safer passwords: Use a combination of upper and lowercase letters and numbers, and change passwords every 30 days.

2. Protect your computer: Use anti-virus software and an updated Internet browser that blocks fraudulent Web sites.

3. Never click on links in e-mails: Even if the e-mail appears to be from your bank, the IRS or popular sites like PayPal, do not click on links to pages that ask you to share sensitive personal or financial information.

4. Use safer payment methods: Systems such as PayPal dont share your financial information when youre shopping online.

5. Use common sense: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Survey Methodology

The 2008 PayPal Trust and Safety Study was conducted by Ipsos Research from May 28 - June 3 in the United States, and from August 15 - 25 in Europe. The e-mail survey reached 1,000 panelists in each of the six countries: the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. All respondents had shopped online in the past 90 days. Quotas for age, gender and PayPal usage were set during the survey to ensure representative online populations in each of the six countries.

About PayPal

PayPal is the safer, easier way to pay and get paid online. The service allows users to pay without sharing financial information and gives consumers the flexibility to pay using their account balances, bank accounts or credit cards. With more than 65 million active accounts in 190 markets and 19 currencies around the world, PayPal enables global ecommerce. PayPal is an eBay company (Nasdaq:EBAY). More information about the company can be found at https://www.paypal.com.

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