Report Strong Support
of Increased ID Theft Precautions
As the holiday shopping season shifts into high gear, most consumers
report they take comfort with the extra screening measures being taken
to verify their identity when making purchases.
According to a consumer survey on identity theft released on November
19 by American Express(R), more than two-thirds of consumers (69%)
have noticed over the past year that merchants and credit card companies
have stepped up identity verification when they are making a purchase.
With reports of identity theft on the rise, most consumers (68%) say
they like these stepped-up measures.
According to the survey, 43% of respondents say they have been asked
for zip code verification, followed by signature verification (36%),
requests for additional personal identification (34%), and requests
for additional security numbers, such as Card Identification Numbers,
or unique numbers found on credit cards that are different from the
card account number (31%). Twenty two percent say they have received
a call from their credit card company to verify a purchase.
"American Express is committed to raising awareness about ID
theft - how it occurs and how to reduce the risk - to help consumers
be smart shoppers this holiday season," said Zyg Gorgol, Senior
Vice President, Worldwide Fraud and Risk Capabilities, American Express.
"It's important to address the issue with both merchants and
consumers to create a front line of defense against this crime."
American Express offers shoppers some simple steps to reduce their
-- First, do not disclose personal information unnecessarily - especially
a Social Security number.
-- Second, monitor all statements and view credit bureau reports one
to two times annually.
-- And third, shred all discarded personal information.
According to the survey, sizable numbers of consumers report experiences
that might put them at risk of identity theft.
Social Security Numbers Frequently Used for ID Verification
Consumers report that Social Security numbers - the piece of information
identity thieves want most - continue to be used frequently for routine
identity verification. More than half (56%) of those surveyed have
been asked for their Social Security numbers over the phone or in
written form as part of an application or an in-person or online transaction.
Many of these requests are legally required: 41% of consumers report
they were asked for a Social Security number in a credit or loan application,
and 30% were asked on employment forms. But other requests may not
be: more than a third (35%) say they were asked for their Social Security
number on medical insurance forms, 16% on college and school forms,
12% as part of an online transaction, and 6% when making a purchase
in a store.
More than one in five (22%) say they have received unsolicited e-mail
from a bank, an online shopping service or online retailer requesting
personal financial information over the past year. Unsolicited e-mail
can be indicative of "phishing" -- requests for personal
information either online or over the phone that appear to be valid,
but aren't. Phishing is used by identity thieves to collect financial
Men and Younger People More Cautious Online
According to the survey, consumers have also adopted new habits to
protect personal information online (62%). Men are more likely than
women to have adopted new online habits (73% vs. 54%), as are younger
people (73% of those 18 - 34), and those with household incomes more
than $75,000 (81%).
Many have changed their behavior to secure their personal information
online, including adding software to protect personal information
(44% overall; 58% of men, 34% of women), and being more selective
where they shop online (39% overall; 47% of men, 33% of women).
Many consumers surveyed believe online shopping is more secure this
year than last (41%), about a third (31%) believe it is as secure
as last year, and 14% believe it is less secure.
This holiday season, those browsing or shopping online will head for
retailer sites they know (28%), online shopping portals such as Amazon
and Yahoo (18%), sites of manufacturers (14%), and sites where they
can sell, buy and barter directly with other consumers (11%). Only
a small number (11%) will browse and shop at many different sites,
including sites they do not know.
© CONTACTO Magazine
Published on November 19, 2004
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