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Survey: Financial crisis fuels identity theft fears

Most Americans believe the world financial crisis has increased their risk of identity theft or related crimes, according to the latest Unisys Security Index.

The biannual survey of consumers in nine countries found that 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."

In addition, computer security remains a major concern. More than 40 percent of Americans are extremely or very concerned about security in relation to viruses or unsolicited emails.

Three-quarters of Americans believe that the world financial crisis will increase the risk that they will personally experience identity theft or related crimes. More than one-quarter believe that the risk will increase substantially.

“Financial security for Americans has moved from third place to front and center, number one,” Tim Kelleher, vice president of enterprise security at Unisys, provider of information technology consulting services, told Monday. “People feel they are much more financially at risk.”

This has major implications for banks and other financial institutions, as well as internet businesses, he said.

“Banks and businesses need to understand that customers are more wary than ever about using services that may compromise their personal data,” Kelleher said. “If economic concerns increase these fears, companies need new strategies to strengthen customer confidence through accountability and transparency, which also plays to part of the Obama administration's call to action for government and business.”

The U.S. Security Index is based on a random telephone survey of 1,004 persons ages 18 and over. The first wave of the study was conducted in August 2007.


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