U.S. Consumers Taking Steps To Stymie ID Theft - InformationWeek

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5/19/2006
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U.S. Consumers Taking Steps To Stymie ID Theft

Almost three-quarters of U.S. adults monitor their bank and credit card accounts for suspicious activity, as well as shred mail that contains their account numbers.

More than 7 in 10 Americans have taken steps to protect their identities, a poll released Friday noted, indicating that although consumers may be worried about ID theft, they're not waiting to be targeted.

According to the Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive poll, 73 percent of 2,100 U.S. adults surveyed said that they now monitor their bank and/or credit card accounts for suspicious activity, while 72 percent claim they shred mail that contains account numbers.

Other steps consumers have taken include limiting access to their Social Security numbers (69 percent), checking credit reports regularly (41 percent), limiting online buying (30 percent), and cutting back on online banking (24 percent).

That last move -- to stop using or limit online banking -- has been the subject of several consumer surveys, most recently one released by research firm eMarketer that claimed security worries were slowing online banking adoption.

The Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive poll, however, said consumers' worries have given them reason to take action.

"Clearly identity theft is an important issue, and huge numbers [of people] are taking steps to try and avoid becoming victims," said Anne Aldrich, a senior vice president at Harris Interactive, in a statement.

Tucked in the data were more detailed demographic findings, said Aldrich, including age and gender differences in approaching identity theft.

For example, younger consumers in the 18-34 age range were much less likely (64 percent) to monitor their accounts for suspicious transactions than were Americans ages 45-54 (81 percent).

And women were generally more proactive than men in defending their identities, with females outranking males in watching accounts (78 percent versus 68 percent), shredding mail (76 percent versus 68), and limiting access to Social Security numbers (72 versus 66).

The poll also revealed that among banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, brokers, and retailers, the last was the least trusted: only 43 percent of those surveyed said that they trusted retailers to protect their personal information. Banks garnered the most support, with 80 percent of those polled saying they trust banks a "fair amount" or a "great deal" with their identities.

The survey can be downloaded in PDF format from the Harris Interactive site.

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