The country is waking up to a new fear. That fear is “fear” itself, or at least the fear of being unnecessarily light-hearted about topics that experts tell us to be worried about.

“The threat of online fraud and identity theft is a bigger worry for the year ahead than gun crime, climate change and contracting MRSA,” shouts a new “Future Fears” press release from transaction services company 3V. They forgot to mention terrorism and the dread of being pulled up on stage by comedians, but we can assume those aren't far behind.

The company claims that 81 percent of people would rather let a friend use their ATM card than use the same card to buy goods on the Internet. And when using cards online, half of consumers think twice before entering their details at all.

Odd then that online commerce is enjoying huge rates of growth across the developed world, and is now starting to exert real business pressure on bricks & mortar stores. People say they are afraid to use online stores, but then happily use them to buy an ever-growing number and range of goods without any obvious hesitation.

A number of possibilities to square this contradiction:

1. People don’t always analyse what they say in such quick-fire surveys, and end up saying things they don’t actually mean, rendering the whole survey meaningless.
2. People do fear unquantifiable threats such as malware but the very nagging aspect of this makes it less potent after a while. When a fear becomes accepted, people adapt to it out of necessity.
3. The sort of people who fill in such surveys aren’t representative of the population. The fear factor motivates people to fill in surveys telling others how afraid they are.
4. The company has a vested interest, and is exaggerating the problem.

"By taking a few simple measures people can help protect themselves against internet fraudsters. 3V Vouchers are a very good way of substantially reducing the risk of online fraud as they use randomly-generated VISA numbers, and security details are delivered separately by text message to the customer. We developed the product to enable all those that don't want to give out their payment card details on the web a way to shop safely and securely," 3V confesses, so there is a vested interest here. Without the problem, there would be no business model for the cure.

5. Journalists are just jaded cynical hacks and always look to pick holes in everything, most of all annoyingly self-serving surveys.