20% of Americans have stopped shopping online

Online cash is more precious to Americans than their real belongings
Online cash is more precious to Americans than their real belongings

A survey of Americans has found a majority of them say that the risks of identity theft have changed their online habits.

The survey, conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), revealed that 20 per cent are so scared that they have limited their online purchasing or stopped altogether.

Perhaps even more shocking for any start-ups out there is that twice that number - four out of every 10 Americans - say that they now only visit websites that they are already familiar with.

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Are their fears well-founded? Perhaps. Of the 3,000 Americans surveyed, 22 per cent claimed they had already had their identity misused to compromise a bank account, steal a credit card number or take out an unauthorised loan.

This might be due to the fact that over half the respondents used the same password on multiple websites.

Despite all their fear and confusion, nearly three quarters of Americans still use the internet for online banking, trading stocks and shares, or accessing their personal medical information.

And bizarrely, more than half of those surveyed said that having $5,000 stolen from their online bank would be worse than having $5,000 stolen during a break-in at their home.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.