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November 10, 2010

New Study Reveals Concerns About Online Shopping & Identity Theft

Technology has made great strides towards making online shopping as safe as possible. But your security can’t be guaranteed. There are many criminals in cyberspace looking for an opportunity to steal your identity.

If you get a queasy feeling in your stomach whenever you type your credit card number on a website – you are certainly not alone. According to research by the Identity Theft Resource Center, the majority of the public is uneasy about online banking and shopping.

The ITRC study conducted in the summer of 2010 monitored trends in what it describes as “consumer concerns about internet transactions.” 500 people who used the internet for banking or shopping within a 30-day time-frame were asked specific questions about their worries.

The findings showed that an alarming 87% of those surveyed have significant concerns about personal information such as credit card information, passwords, user-names and social security numbers being stolen or lost by a business or financial institution in a data breach.

That number isn’t so shocking when you examine another study. This one was conducted by Verizon Business. It recently conducted an investigation into compliance with credit card security standards. In order to protect consumer credit card data, guidelines referred to as the Payment Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS) were developed several years ago. However, Verizon discovered only 22% of companies were compliant with PCI-DSS when they were reviewed for the first time.

It’s no wonder that 81% of those questioned in the ITRC survey are worried about getting phishing emails. 77% are concerned that they’ll see a large increase in spam in their email inbox, and 80% are scared their password could be stolen!

The good news from this study is that many consumers are taking a proactive approach to protecting their identity while shopping online.

Of the consumers questioned in this study, 41% refuse to use a payment method with access to their bank account. Those who switch their online passwords on a regular basis make up 35% of survey participants. Nearly a quarter of participants say they only use low-limit credit cards when shopping online. That means if their personal information is lost in a data breach – the financial losses won’t be too terrible.

Online business should take notice of these numbers and realize that protecting their customers is extremely important. 73% of the people in this survey said they would no longer shop at a website that experienced a data breach. The majority also said they would advise friends and family to avoid that particular website as well.

When you go to an e-commerce website, check to see if they are displaying seals indicating a partnership with trusted web security companies such as Verisign and McAfee.

See if you can find the McAfee Secure Trustmark somewhere on the homepage. It will display the date when the website was last tested. McAfee scans for possible access to personal data, links to dangerous sites, phishing and other online dangers.

Kasey Steinbrinck creates web content for online Check Printer Check Advantage. Read more of his writing on the Check Advantage blog at