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Consumers Stress Over Security of Financial Info

If you read the news regularly, you read about data breaches and massive hacks just about every week. That can make you a little nervous about safeguarding your financial information.

A new MasterCard survey reveals you are not alone. Seventy-seven percent of consumers are anxious about their personal and financial information being hacked. In fact, the fear of a hack is higher than the fear of compromised e-mail (62 percent) or a home robbery (59 percent).

And get this: 55 percent of survey respondents said they would rather have naked photos leaked on the Internet than have their financial data stolen. How’s that for too much information?

“Our survey reveals there’s a sharp contrast between what people say or think they are doing to protect their information and what they actually do, but that’s understandable,” said Carolyn Balfany, senior vice president of U.S. Product Delivery — EMV at MasterCard. “We’re human.”

How Lazy Can Consumers Get?

Here’s the good news: Americans want to do more to protect their own financial information. Unfortunately, the survey reveals few seem to recognize how their day-in and day-out habits put them at risk.

For example, 92 percent of Americans believe they take precautions to protect their financial information, yet 46 percent rarely or never change passwords for online financial accounts. What’s worse, 44 percent use the same passwords for multiple online accounts, and 39 percent have checked their financial data online on public networks.

Credit card companies are taking notice and moving to help consumers protect their financial information with less effort through new ways to pay. Sixty-nine percent of consumers are using chip cards — with embedded computer chips in the card face — or plan to use them soon and 56 percent use mobile digital payments through an app or Web site, or plan to try it soon.

“Today’s digital lifestyle means consumer concerns for online safety and security trumps physical security as a close second,” said Robert Siciliano, identity theft and personal security expert. “It’s great that consumers have heightened awareness, but while they may understand personal responsibility they still want to feel protected by the institutions who are also responsible for protecting their data.”

Scared Enough for Anything

The list of stats in the survey goes on and on: 83 percent are excited about new security technologies, while 82 percent have heard of biometrics payments. But the Millennial generation (born from 1980 to the mid-2000s) may still be the weak point. Forty-five percent of Millennials in the U.S. are least likely to believe that the risk of their financial information being stolen or compromised is going to increase in the next three years. That compares to 58 percent of Gen-Xers (born between 1961-1981) and 61 percent of Baby Boomers (1946-1964).

We turned to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, for his feedback on the study results. He told us the survey tells us what we should have already known: with all of the public breaches people are very concerned about security but have no real clue how to protect themselves so any technology that seems to work is attractive to them.

“This is as much about the massive lack of knowledge of what to do as it is about the need to do something. Typically when you combine those two things you have large numbers of people doing things that actually make it worse for them,” Enderle said. “This is one of the reasons ransomware is spreading. People are often tricked to install it thinking it is a free security product.” Ransomware locks up your PC or smartphone until you pay the provider a ransom.

Although the study shows people are far more willing to embrace security, Enderle said it also shows they are very likely to do some very foolish things that they wouldn’t have done otherwise.

“So, yes they would be open to the bank’s new security technology but they’d also likely be open to a burglar coming to the door with a false offer to install a free security system,” he said. “So this isn’t a statement about how good any of this technology is, just one that says people are so scared they’ll pretty much accept anything.”

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