More than a third of smartphone owners are not aware of the security risks associated with using their handset to access their bank accounts and other financial services, says AVG.

Research conducted by the security firm in conjunction with the Ponemon Institute revealed that just 29 percent of smartphone owners have considered downloading free or paid-for antivirus software for their handset.

Furthermore, 13 percent said that location-tracking tools had been embedded in their phone without their knowledge at the time, allowing others to track their location, and six percent had experienced a mobile phone app transmitting confidential payment information such as credit card details without the user's knowledge or consent.

The research also revealed that eight percent had been the victim of 'diallerware', or software that enables criminals to call premium-rate phone numbers from the handset, resulting in unexpected monthly charges. Yet just 10 percent of smartphone owners were even aware that 'diallerware' exists, AVG said.

"AVG and Ponemon Institute found that an alarmingly low percentage of smartphone users are aware of the security threats that exist today on many of the world's most popular devices, including Android handsets and the iPhone," said JR Smith, CEO of AVG Technologies.

"A clear opportunity exists to better educate consumers on the steps they can take to minimise their risk and exposure, such as downloading low-cost and even free antivirus products specifically geared to protect their mobile lifestyle and investment."

See also: AVG acquires Google Android security firm