More than one in ten adults in Germany (11 percent) have already fallen victim to identity theft online. This emerges from a representative survey by the opinion research institute YouGov on behalf of the Safe Trade Initiative (ISH), which was published in Berlin on Wednesday. Almost one in five respondents (19 percent) who have so far been spared know one or even more people who have become victims. Five percent have experienced both, meaning they have been victims themselves and know other victims.

YouGov’s online survey surveyed 2,058 people at the beginning of March. The results were weighted and are representative of the German population aged 18 and over. Identity theft is a particularly perfidious scam, the initiative explained. Criminals used data such as the name, date of birth, address or credit card or account numbers of their victims to use this data to create user accounts with online services and to make purchases or conclude contracts at third-party expense. “The victims usually only notice this when it is too late and the transfers have been posted to the account or bills arrive.”

Many cybercriminals are currently taking advantage of the tense housing market. For example, apartment seekers are tricked into completing a postal identification process with a fake advertisement in order to apply for an alleged apartment inspection. Those affected often do not realize that the information they provide is simply helping the fraudsters open a bank account in their name that is to be used for criminal purposes, such as money laundering.

“Although the danger is increasing, many people are obviously still taking the issue lightly,” said a spokeswoman for the initiative. The younger generation in particular acts particularly carelessly. In the survey, one in three 18- to 24-year-olds said they use the same password for multiple user accounts online. On average, just one in five people do this. 16 percent of young adults admitted that they had already shared a copy of their ID card with a stranger over the Internet. Within the entire sample, this only applies to eleven percent of those surveyed.

When it comes to security measures, the older respondents are also much more conscientious than the youngest generation. 70 percent of people over 55 say they regularly check their bank statements. For 18 to 24 year olds, that figure is just 39 percent. Acting Safely is a joint initiative of the state and federal police crime prevention agencies (ProPK), the German Forum for Crime Prevention Foundation (DFK), Germany Safely on the Net e. V. (DsiN), RISK IDENT and Kleinanzeigen (formerly eBay Kleinanzeigen), which was launched in 2023.