Identity Theft Tops Security Concerns for Americans

In Unisys' annual survey of security trends, U.S. citizens listed financial security and personal security as their two top concerns with the most worrisome threats being credit-card theft and identity fraud.

The average American is less worried about threats to their physical security and livelihood than at any point during the last six years. But they continue to worry about financial and personal security, especially credit-card fraud and identity theft, according to an annual security survey conducted by technology and services firm Unisys.

In its Unisys Security Index report published June 4, the company found that its indicator of American's level of concern dropped to 120, down from a high of 164 two years ago. U.S. citizens tend to place financial security as their top priority, followed by personal security, national security and then Internet security. More than half of all respondents put credit-card fraud as their top concern among financial-security issues, while 54 percent put identity theft at the top of their list of personal-security concerns.

With many high-profile incidents and a lot of press about cyber-security, people are more educated now about how cyber-security affects them, said Steve Vinsik, vice president of global security solutions at Unisys. "Most consumers are less worried about cyber-security issues, but where they are most concerned is identity theft or bank card fraud," he told eWEEK.

The cyber-security index began in 2007, launched by The Lieberman Group, a research firm. The survey measures the sentiment of more than 1,000 citizens in each country in regards to matters of financial, personal, cyber and national security.

Compared with people in other nations, U.S. citizens have fewer concerns. The score for the United States has declined to 120, while Mexico and Columbia have security indexes near 180, Vinsik says. The war on terrorism continues to concern citizens at the national-security level, but it fails to rise above people's concerns for credit-card fraud and identity theft.

The survey has, overall, trended slightly downward. In the 2013 survey, the number of "extremely concerned" citizens dropped in nearly every category.

The top overall category of worry for U.S. citizens continues to be financial security. More than half of Americans—52 percent—worry that someone will obtain and use their credit-card details, the survey found. Nearly a third of respondents worried about their ability to meet their financial obligations, such as paying credit-card bills, their mortgage or other debt.

Personal security was the second-largest concern for U.S. citizens. The most worrisome personal threat—for 54 percent of those surveyed—was identity theft. Only a quarter of Americans worried about their physical safety.

Internet security was the least concerning group of threats for those surveyed. More than a third of consumers—35 percent—are worried about their system becoming infected with a computer virus. Only slightly less than that, 33 percent, are concerned about shopping online.

The relative lack of concern over Internet threats also shows that consumers rarely feel the consequences of poor Internet security, Vinsik said.

"The impact of cyber-attacks [is] not really felt by consumers," he said. "The costs are absorbed by banks and other businesses, and then those fees get passed onto the consumer at the end of the day."

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos

Robert Lemos is an award-winning freelance journalist who has covered information security, cybercrime and technology's impact on society for almost two decades. A former research engineer, he's...