Online shoppers' worries over ID theft grow

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In the wake of recent massive data breaches at businesses, educational institutions and medical facilities, consumers are growing more concerned about identity theft and, as a result, changing their buying behavior, found two surveys released last week.

In the first study, the 2007 Consumer Survey on Data Security from San Francisco-based Vontu, a data-loss-prevention services provider, and the Elk Rapids, MI-based Ponemon Institute LLC, a privacy and information-management research firm, online buyers were found to have modified their purchasing behavior as a result of data breaches. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they would not use their credit or debit cards to make a purchase with a Web merchant they do not know.

The study also shows that 62 percent of respondents have been notified that their confidential data have been lost, and 84 percent of those reported increased concern or anxiety because of data-loss events.

A majority of respondents are changing their online purchasing behavior because of heightened security concerns. For example, respondents who received notification are more cautious when sharing their credit card (43 percent vs. 32 percent) and debit card (44 percent vs. 32 percent).

Forty-five percent said they would not provide their Social Security number on a Web site.

For the survey, the Ponemon Institute surveyed 768 adults who live in the United States. The survey was conducted online May 17-29.

The study also identified an apparent privacy age gap, as respondents age 18-25 appear to be less concerned about the protection of certain data types when compared to respondents over 65.

In contrast, the one area where younger respondents expressed greater concern than older respondents was in maintaining the privacy of their Web search-engine terms and activity.

The second study concluded that the effect that fraud and identity theft have had on the public's concern about personal financial matters should remain a top consideration for financial institutions.

According to findings from infoUSA's Opinion Research Corp.'s monthly "Ouch Point" series, 54 percent cited identity theft and fraud as their biggest personal financial concerns.

The study found that complaints about inattentive tellers, unhelpful service centers and expensive ATM charges are eclipsed by concerns about fraud and identity theft.

Opinion Research Corp.'s "Ouch Point" series is a monthly survey examining tolerance thresholds in a variety of common scenarios facing Americans in their professional and personal lives.

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