The majority of US consumers want to see criminal charges levied against companies that fail to protect their personal data, as one in five individuals admit falling victim to identity theft.
A survey of more than 1850 Americans conducted by California-based Impulse Research on behalf of Chubb Group of Insurance Companies found that 65% of respondents would like to see these companies that fail to protect customer data fined and 63% want these companies charged with a crime.
A large majority - 87% - of respondents also feel that companies that fail that to protect confidential data should be required by law to pay to restore consumers' credit ratings. The survey found 40% of respondents think it would cost $1000 or more to clear their credit record.
The research found that a fifth of respondents have been a victim of identity fraud or theft. Over a quarter (27%) of respondents reported that their or a family member's credit card was fraudulently used to charge purchases, up from 19% in 2000, while eight per cent had experienced cheque fraud.
Dan McCabe, vice president of Chubb & Son and marketing manager for Chubb Personal Insurance, says: "The survey demonstrates not only the increased threat of identity theft but also the increased concern felt by consumers."
But despite the increasing number of high profile security breaches and data thefts, Chubb says the research shows that consumers are still "giving away" their identities. Over half of respondents - 64% - have disclosed confidential information online or by telephone in the past six months. Over a quarter (28%) also throw away correspondence from credit card companies without shredding or tearing it up.
The research also found that consumers would disclose their social security numbers to a credit card company when applying for an account (78%), to an
auto dealer when establishing credit (54%), to a phone company when establishing service (37%), and to a college or other educational institution (53%).
Says McCabe: "People need to be more protective of their personal information, particularly with whom and how they share it, whether online, over the phone or in person."