A worldwide study has calculated the cost of global cybercrime at $114 billion annually.

The Norton Cybercrime Report 2011 surveyed the experiences of 20,000 people in 24 countries including 802 in Australia.

The results reveal 69 per cent of online adults have been a victim of cybercrime in their lifetime. This means there are more than one million cybercrime victims every day. Norton has calculated this would make 431 million adult victims worldwide in the past year, at an estimated annual cost of $388 billion based on financial losses and lost time. This would mean that cybercrime supersedes the costs of the black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined ($288 billion).

For the first time, Norton also reveals the extent of which mobile digital devices make up this number. It says 10 percent of adults online have experienced cybercrime on their mobile phone.

The study identifies men between 18 and 31 years old who access the Internet from their mobile phone as even more likely victims: in this group four in five (80 percent) have fallen prey to cybercrime in their lifetime.

Globally, the most common – and most preventable – type of cybercrime is computer viruses and malware with 54 percent of respondents saying they have experienced it in their lifetime. Viruses are followed by online scams (11 percent) and phishing messages (10 percent).

“There is a serious disconnect in how people view the threat of cybercrime,” said Adam Palmer, Norton Lead Cybersecurity Advisor. “Cybercrime is much more prevalent than people realize. Over the past 12 months, three times as many adults surveyed have suffered from online crime versus offline crime, yet less than a third of respondents think they are more likely to become a victim of cybercrime than physical world crime in the next year. And while 89 percent of respondents agree that more needs to be done to bring cybercriminals to justice, fighting cybercrime is a shared responsibility. It requires us all to be more alert and to invest in our online smarts and safety.”

The disconnect between awareness and action is further illustrated by the fact that while 74 percent of respondents say they are always aware of cybercrime, many are not taking the necessary precautions. Forty-one percent of adults indicated they don’t have an up to date security software suite to protect their personal information online. In addition, less than half review credit card statements regularly for fraud (47 percent), and 61 percent don’t use complex passwords or change them regularly. Among those who access the Internet via their mobile phone, only 16 percent install the most up to date mobile security.

Cyber-generated identity theft

With online identity theft, often people aren’t aware it has occurred to them, until they apply for credit and are refused. At this stage it can be revealed that a long list of defaults have been put there by someone who has used the victim’s good name to obtain credit.

Credit file defaults are debilitating – leaving people unable to obtain home loans, personal loans, even mobile phone plans during the term of the listing which is generally 5 years.

Unfortunately, credit file damage due to identity theft can be very difficult to rectify. To clear their good name, the identity theft victim needs to prove to creditors they did not initiate the credit – which can be difficult. Not only are victims generally required to produce police reports, but large amounts of documentary evidence to substantiate to creditors the case of identity theft.

How to avoid identity theft

Public education can go a long way to lessening the instances of identity theft. The Government’s Stay Smart Online website recommends Australians follow these 8 top tips for increasing their resistance to identity fraud, and avoiding the loss to their bank balance
and potentially their good name. These would apply to all types of internet use, including mobile digital devices:

1. Install and renew your security software and set it to scan regularly.

2. Turn on automatic updates on all your software, including your operating system and other applications.

3. Think carefully before you click on links or attachments, particularly in emails and on social networking sites.

4. Regularly adjust your privacy settings on social networking sites.

5. Report or talk to someone about anything online that makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened – download the government’s Cybersafety Help Button.

6. Stop and think before you post any photos or financial or personal information about yourself, your friends or family.

7. Use strong passwords and change them at least twice a year.

8. Talk within your family about good online safety.

Where to go for help following identity theft

Sometimes unravelling the tangled ‘web’ of online identity fraud for the purposes of negotiating with creditors to restore someone’s good name is a minefield that many individuals have neither the time nor the skill set for.

Credit repairers are more commonly involved in assisting people in cases of identity fraud due to a better knowledge of legislation and ability to work within it when negotiating with creditors over the victim’s financial future.

If you need help with credit repair following identity theft, contact MyCRA Credit Repairs or call tollfree 1300 667 218.

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