Survey: Consumers Inclined to Switch Banks if Victimized

A forthcoming survey — commissioned by Sun Microsystems — indicates that 50 percent of consumers have promised themselves that if they are victims of identity theft at a particular financial institution, they will take their online business elsewhere.

An executive summary of the survey — to be released in the coming days — was provided to TechNewsWorld. The thinking behind the commissioning of the survey is that with the holiday shopping season rapidly approaching, the company wanted to determine the views of consumers on identity theft and on online shopping and banking.

One-Third Are Victimized

The key findings were as follows:

  • One in three consumers either has been a victim of identity theft, or knows someone who has been a victim;
  • An astounding 83 percent of consumers think they are more susceptible to identity theft during the holiday season than at other times of the year;
  • Sixty-seven percent of consumers will stop shopping at an online retailer if notified that their personal data has been compromised;
  • Fifty percent of Americans will take their banking or insurance policies elsewhere if notified by a financial institution that their personal data has been compromised.

What’s more, the study also looks at holiday online shopping numbers and examines what steps Americans are taking to protect their digital identities. This survey will be released on Tuesday, Sun said.

The survey comes as political attention to identity theft is increasing. Alabama’s Attorney General Troy King this week issued a public warning about ID theft and announced that he is spending public money on a TV ad that tells consumers how their identities can be stolen.

“Anybody who has an e-mail account that can be contacted, anybody who has a telephone that can be listened in on, anybody who has a credit card they use in public, in short, anybody in Alabama can become a victim of identity theft,” King said during a news conference.

Russians Target Rural America

Computer hackers are even targeting small credit unions in rural states, like Alabama, to steal consumers’ information.

Max Federal Credit Union, of Montgomery, Ala., this week sent a warning letter out with new credit and debit cards it issued for 14,000 clients, after the company’s client information was compromised by hackers from Russia.

Some 44 million customers nationwide have been victimized by similar assaults, experts say. The credit union in Alabama is replacing all credit cards of all of its consumers — at its own cost, and also reissuing debit cards to prevent other losses. What’s more, the move may prevent customers who feel uncomfortable, now that news of the ID theft has spread, from leaving the bank.

The attorney general has published tips for consumers — and businesses — to follow when purchasing online to avoid having one’s identity stolen by Russians or other nefarious hackers. They include:

  • Only purchase from an online store that uses a secure server, e.g., one that has an “https” address, not just an “http” address;
  • Only respond to e-mails that are personalized. Be aware that most “phishing” e-mails will not be personalized, unlike most e-mails from your bank and credit card companies. You should never use the link provided in an e-mail to go to a Web page. Instead, call the company or type the Web address into your browser. Do not fill out forms over the Internet asking for your personal information unless you know for certain that the e-mail is legitimate.
  • Be very cautious when asked to give your personal information out over the phone, particularly when you are talking on a mobile phone. If you are in a public place, make sure to hold your voice down low — and be aware that people around you may be listening to your conversation.

For more personal data protection information, click here.

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