PayPal and Crime Stoppers have joined forces to warn consumers to be smarter about sharing their personal information online.

A survey conducted by Pure Profile and commission by PayPal in May, found that despite 75 per cent of Australians are concerned about the information they share online, almost 50 per cent admit to not knowing how many websites hold their personal details.

For those Australians that do know where their information is stored online, PayPal’s research found that almost half have details stored across more than five accounts including social networking sites to online bank accounts, as well as online shopping sites through to recruitment services.

Frerk-Malte Feller, managing director, PayPal Australia, said many consumers are unaware of the size and impact of the digital footprint they leave when interacting online.

“Consumers need to take stock of where their details are held online, and carefully consider the sensitivity of the information they are providing.  Whilst the majority of Australians surveyed believe they know the steps to protect themselves online, many continue to share their personal and financial information irresponsibly, highlighting a clear disconnect between what consumers actually know and what they think they know,” he said.

“Ignorance can be dangerous, and our aim is to close this knowledge gap by continually educating consumers on how to minimise their online exposure and footprint, and their risk of falling victim to cyber crime.”

In the same Pure Profile survney, nearly 60 per cent of consumers admit to using the same password across multiple accounts.

Personal information provided to a daily newsletter will be far less secure than information provided online to a financial institution. Once a cyber criminal has access to your password on one online account, they could quickly build up a profile of personally identifiable information, which could be used to steal anything from hard-earned savings to entire personal identities, according to PayPal.

Losses reported to the ACCC – as part of its report on scam activity in 2010 – from cyber crime totalled more than $63 million.

Peter Price, chief executive, Crime Stoppers, said it is necessary for consumers to understand how to protect themselves from crime.

“The online space is continuously and rapidly evolving as cyber criminals appear to be more scrupulous and creative in the ways they steal from Australians, masquerading as bona fide organisations,” he said.

“Education and knowledge is the key to Australians remaining diligent and staying one-step ahead of cyber criminals. Assessing with whom and where they are sharing their personal information is an important first step.”