Bright spot amid jitters

Americans are more afraid of cyberthieves and other fraudsters getting into their wallets than they are of terrorist attacks on the country, a new survey reports.

Job losses, salary cuts and the general strain of economic uncertainty have increased consumers' fears of getting ripped off, according to the Unisys Security Index.

The biannual study samples consumer attitudes about security issues. The most recent survey polled 1,000 Americans and was conducted Feb. 20-22 by the Lieberman Research Group.

Released as federal and state officials launch a crackdown on mortgage modification scams that set traps for panicked borrowers, the survey found that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe

the global recession has made them more vulnerable to identity theft or some other fraud.

"As the trends show, identity theft is occurring at an exponential rate where you have gone from hundreds of thousands to millions of people having their identity stolen," said Sidney Pearl, Unisys director of Risk Intelligence.

More than two-thirds of respondents said they were "extremely" or "very" concerned about having their credit card information stolen, and 90 percent are at least somewhat concerned, according to the report, which was released this week.

More than 40 percent of Americans were found to be extremely or very concerned about viruses or unsolicited e-mails.

Middle-age Americans, in particular, have deep suspicions about conducting business online. Forty-nine percent of people surveyed in the 45 to 54 age group are "extremely" or "very" concerned about the security of shopping or banking online.

The survey found a 12 percent uptick in fears about overall financial security since September, the last time a Unisys poll was taken. Economic worries now rank as Americans' No. 1 security fear.

Seventy-five percent of Americans worry about being unable to meet financial obligations.

On the flip side, the report said national security ranks low as a concern.

"The financial crisis has replaced the concern over terrorism," Pearl said.