Online Security a Growing Concern for Americans

July 28, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Email | Financial Services | Privacy & Security | Retail & E-Commerce

Americans are increasingly worried about the safety of their identities and financial information online, according to new research from Mintel. However, identity theft is actually on the decline, Mintel said.

Nearly two-thirds of US adults (65%) are more concerned about online security now than they were five years ago and more than a quarter (28%) say they are “significantly” more concerned.

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Despite these fears, nearly three-quarters (71%) of adults report managing at least one financial services account online, according to Mintel. The average American manages three financial services accounts via email and the web.

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“Identity theft and online security are hot issues in the media, making them top-of-mind for consumers,” said Susan Menke, senior analyst at Mintel. “More people now realize the harmful effects of identity theft, so they’re growing increasingly wary of doing business online or responding to unsolicited emails.”

In contrast to mounting concerns, Mintel cites evidence that identity theft is decreasing. According to the US Justice Department, the number of American identity theft victims fell 12% from 2003 to 2006 (from 10.1 million to 8.9 million).

In 2006, only 8.3 percent of identity theft cases were the result of online behavior such as computer viruses, hackers or phishing. The majority of identity thefts resulted from simple thefts such as a stolen checkbooks or dishonest friends.

Recent data from Mintel Comperemedia’s email panel also confirm the lower-than-imagined threat of identity theft through “phishing” attempts to lure recipients to fraudulent websites to steal personal information. In 2007, less than?1% of emails tracked by the firm were phishing scams.

“The actual risk of having your identity stolen online is not as high as many people think,” added Menke. “Financial services companies are trying to reassure consumers of this fact, but our research suggests their marketing messages aren’t sticking. Companies need to find innovative new ways to convince Americans that their identities are secure online and when using email.”

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