Despite the sensational headlines of overnight millionaires, gold rushes, cyber-heists and the rise of a mysterious virtual currency set to threaten the world's banking systems, it would seem bitcoin is only familiar to a noisy minority.

A survey carried out by GfK, and commissioned by The Street, found 76% of the US public are not familiar with bitcoin, while 79% have never and would never consider using the currency, once it had been explained to them by telephone.

"While Bitcoin has attracted the attention of influential hedge fund managers and the research desks of major US banks, an overwhelming majority of Americans remain unaware of crypto currency," said Joe Deaux, economics analyst at The Street.

Hurting the US dollar

The survey, which consisted of 1,005 telephone interviewed conducted across the US between 24 and 26 January, found 38% of Americans believe bitcoin hurts the value of the US dollar.

A third of those aged 18 to 24 believe bitcoin helps the national currency - compared to just 10% of the over 65s claiming bitcoin is beneficial.

The attitude towards bitcoin differing by age also rang true when respondents were asked if they would rather own bitcoin instead of gold; 15% of 18 to 24-year-olds answered positively, compared to just 4% of over-65s.

Deaux added: "Bitcoin's supporters would argue that the virtual currency remains in its infancy and that a year ago most of Wall Street hadn't heard of it. But The Street's survey shows that there isn't great deviation across income brackets as to how many people know about Bitcoin, own Bitcoin and prefer it to owning gold."

Despite younger respondents being more welcoming of bitcoin, it was the 50-64 age bracket which was most familiar with the cryptocurrency, with 30% of respondents that age saying they had heard of it, compared to 20% of 18 to 34-year-olds.

In total, 80% of those questioned said they would rather own gold than bitcoin, and just 2% said they actually owned any bitcoins.