The bill for ID theft – our biggest fear

Britons are more afraid of identity theft than they are of being mugged or attacked in the street, a survey from American Express has revealed.

Nearly 3,000 adults were asked what areas of criminal and anti-social behaviour worried them most, and around four out of 10 cited ID theft and fraud. This was narrowly considered more of a threat than mugging, burglary or physical assault. Anxiety about ID crime was most acute among those in the survey sample who own a business.

"As fast-paced working life drives more people to rely on technology in the way they manage their lives, so the safety landscape is changing and ID theft is becoming a bigger issue year on year," said Chris Rolland, head of American Express Insurance Services.

No one is certain how many identities are stolen in the UK each year, but government estimates put the potential loss to the economy at a massive £1.3bn.

Meanwhile, women's insurer Sheila's Wheels has warned its customers not to carry large amounts of personal information around with them in their handbags – or run the risk of identity fraud. Research by the firm found that almost two-thirds of all women's handbags hold at least one item that could be used to steal their owner's identity. Nearly half contain a diary with personal details; a quarter have a chequebook; one in eight women carry around utility bills – one of the most useful "proof of identity" documents for fraudsters; and 7 per cent admitted to carrying around their passport on a regular basis.

"Losing a bag and its contents not only creates the obvious problem of loss of cash and credit cards, but can lead to identity theft. It's crucial to carry just the bare essentials and declutter regularly," said Jacky Brown of Sheila's Wheels.

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