A Microsoft survey of 10,000 consumers found that the worldwide annual cost of identity theft and phishing could be as high as $5 billion - and the cost of repairing damage to people’s reputation online could be even higher: up to $6 billion, with the 10,000 consumers polled by Microsoft losing an average of $632.
The survey found that out of more than 10,000 consumers surveyed, 15% said that they had been a victim of phishing, losing an average of $158, a further 13% said their professional reputation had been compromised, costing on average $535 to repair, and 9% said they had suffered identity theft at an average cost of $218.
Despite this, just 36% said they limited what strangers see on social networks - and only 33% adjust privacy settings, according to Yahoo Finance’s report.
According to The Telegraph’s report, just 33% of consumers polled in the survey even used PIN codes to protect mobile devices.
"The Internet touches our lives every day; we email to stay connected, share photos and videos, pay bills, and shop," said Jacqueline Beauchere, chief online safety officer at Microsoft. "Sometimes, though, the very experiences that we love about the Internet put us at risk."
The survey was conducted as part of a Microsoft campaign to persuade consumers to take one step to be safer online, entitled Do 1 Thing, where the company encourages internet users to protect their online safety by simple steps such as guarding mobile devices with PINs and online accounts with strong passwords.
"There are many things you can do to stay safer online. If we all do just one thing, imagine how much safer we all will be, together," Beauchere said. "Go to our website to share your one thing. Tell the world that you're committed to helping keep the Internet safer and more secure. And once you do, you'll be part of that positive change."
The Microsoft Computing Safety Index survey polled consumers in 20 countries. The survey was conducted March through May 2013 and asked consumers to share their online experiences for the previous year. Countries polled included Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
A We Live Security round-up of easy two-minute steps anyone can take to be safer online can be found here.