Economic crisis increases Americans’ fears about fraud and ID theft

According to research conducted in late February by Unisys, the vast majority of Americans (nearly 75 percent) believe that the current world financial crisis has increased their risk for experiencing identity theft or related fraud crimes, and more than one-quarter believe the current crisis raises that risk substantially.

The research, conducted with the latest Unisys Security Index, also confirms that most people are much more worried about their financial security, which saw a 12 percent spike when compared to results polled in September 2008. This concern now ranks as Americans’ number one security fear for the first time since Unisys began the global study in 2007. Conversely, the current data also shows the lowest level of concern about national security issues among U.S. consumers.

Additionally, more than two thirds of Americans are extremely or very concerned about other people obtaining and using their credit or debit card details, with 90 percent at least somewhat concerned.

The Unisys Security Index is a bi-annual global study of consumer opinion on four areas of security: financial, national, Internet and personal safety. The results were tallied on a scale of 0-300, with 300 representing the highest level of perceived concern. More than 1,000 Americans responded to the latest survey conducted from February 20-22, 2009. The average score of 147 for the current Unisys Security Index for the United States indicates a moderate level of overall security concern.

Additional findings from the latest U.S. results of the Unisys Security Index include:

  • Credit and debit card fraud is now the primary security concern for Americans. More than two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) are either extremely or very concerned. The proportion of Americans indicating no concern is at the lowest level since Unisys began the global study.
  • Only 25 percent of Americans have no concern about meeting their financial obligations. More than half of all Black Americans and Hispanic Americans polled are extremely or very concerned with meeting their financial obligations. In particular, almost three-quarters of Black Americans (74 percent) are concerned.
  • Older Americans and Americans with higher salaries are less concerned about meeting financial obligations than younger Americans and Americans with lower salaries.
  • Two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) are seriously concerned about unauthorized access to or misuse of personal information. Overall, the levels of concern on this issue have remained relatively high and constant since the first global study in August 2007.
  • The percentage of Americans extremely or very concerned about war or terrorism dropped to the lowest level for all surveys in the Unisys Security Index series.

In addition, computer security remains a concern. More than 40 percent of Americans are extremely or very concerned about security in relation to viruses or unsolicited emails. Banks and retailers should also take note of the results from the survey respondents in the 45 to 54 age group, the segment of the population that tends to have the highest earnings and greatest disposable income. Forty-nine percent of people surveyed in that group are extremely concerned or very concerned about the security of shopping or banking online.

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