Data Breaches Affect One in Four Americans
Data breaches are changing consumers’ online and offline shopping habits, according to a March American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) phone survey conducted by Harris Poll with more than 1,000 adult U.S. households.
One in four Americans suffered through an information security breach in the past year, double the number of reported victims revealed by a similar survey (11%) conducted over a year ago. These widespread incidents, which can have dire consequences on the victims’ finances and credit scores, are shifting Americans’ purchasing decisions.
“The increase in data breaches affecting personal information has given consumers significant cause to be cautious about their activities, both online and off,” the report said.
The survey found more than four out of five (82%) Americans are shifting their purchasing behavior in the wake of increased cyber-attacks, which represents a 13% increase from a year ago. Fifty-six percent said they are now using more cash and/or checks for purchases, and 40% have reduced their online presence – including turning off social media accounts or visiting fewer websites. In comparison, only 34% of Millennials have reduced their online presence in the wake of an information security breach increase – the least amount of any age group.
No age group is safe from personal information security breaches, regardless of their online activity, as 34% of victims fell into the 55 to 64 age group last year, while 22% of victims fell into the Millennial category.
Cyber-attacks not only put information at risk; these breaches can have an adverse effect on consumers’ personal finances. According to the survey, one in five people said identity theft has negatively affected their credit scores. In addition, 26% reported that their credit scores prevented them from doing at least one thing in the past year, such as obtaining a personal loan, credit card or mortgage.
The survey also found that 86% of adults reported some concern about businesses’ abilities to safeguard customers’ financial information and other personal information, with a majority (51%) saying they are “extremely concerned” or “very concerned.” The latter figure is up from 39% a year ago. Perhaps because digital communication and online payments are so ingrained in their daily lives, fewer Millennials (42%) reported being “extremely concerned” or “very concerned” about businesses’ abilities to protect their data, less than any other age group surveyed.
The survey results are consistent with the results of a survey conducted by Westport, Conn.-based Awareness Technologies in partnership with CUNA Strategic Services, which found 83% of surveyed financial institutions admit their biggest concern is confidential information being transferred to unauthorized recipients. Even more concerning, 77% of all credit unions surveyed said they do not believe or were unsure if they had complete protection regarding internal data threats.