One in ten people in the UK was a victim of online ID fraud within the last 12 months.

The average sum lost was £352 in the last 12 months, while 12 per cent of victims are still waiting to be fully reimbursed for the money they lost. This represents a slight improvement since the last VeriSign Online Fraud Barometer, when 14 per cent were still waiting to be reimbursed. It also found that four per cent of victims believe they will never recoup the money they lost to fraud.

The survey discovered a 12 per cent rise in the number of people who did not suffer any immediate financial loss as a result of the online ID fraud. This indicates an increase in the number of victims who suffer identity theft or other less immediately tangible losses, which reflects an increase in email or social networking cyber attacks.

Phil D'Angio, director at VeriSign, said: “While online ID theft may not necessarily result in immediate financial loss, web users need to remember that fraudsters can farm email and social networking sites for information which enables them to impersonate you online. Alternatively they could sell your information to other cyber criminals who want to use your details for criminal purposes.

“Consumers need to remain vigilant at all times by reading a site's security policies, checking their privacy settings and looking out for security certificates and seals. Businesses can differentiate themselves in this challenging economic climate by bolstering security on their websites and by showing consumers exactly how secure they are through techniques like strong authentication or EV SSL which turns the address bar of a secure site green, effectively giving consumers the green light for transacting online.”

Michael Levi, professor of criminology at Cardiff University, said: “When a house gets burgled, victims can see that their property is missing immediately. Unfortunately when it comes to online identity theft the damage may not be obvious straight away, so victims may not recognise that their identity has been compromised until it's sold on the black market and used by others for their own gain, whether that is to conceal their own criminal identity when conducting illegal activities, or to fraudulently obtain goods, money or services.

“Organisations in both the public and private sectors need to work together to educate consumers to exercise caution online, but also to help users to realise when they may have been a victim of online ID fraud, especially as the true repercussions of that theft may be delayed and cause harm at a later date if left unresolved.”