48% of US adults think they will be a victim of identity theft in the next year

Demonstrating the erosion of trust American citizens have in current identity institutions, a new survey has found that nearly half of adults in the U.S. think it is somewhat likely they will suffer financial loss due to identity theft within the next year.

The survey, which was conducted by The Harris Poll for the American Institute of CPAs, found that 81 percent of Americans have changed their behavior based on the threat of data breaches, and the same amount said they are concerned about the ability of businesses to safeguard their personal and financial information. The hit to Trust & Safety among consumers helped to prompt 56 percent of respondents to begin monitoring their credit and debit cards for fraudulent activity.

In addition, 43 percent of those polled said they are using cash and/or checks more often, avoiding credit cards for fear of fraud. And 40 percent said they are choosing locally owned stores more often, demonstrating a lack of trust in national corporations and store chains that store massive amounts of data.

Websites, in particular, have taken a big hit from recent data breaches, with 26 percent polled saying they have reduced their online presence, and 10 percent saying they have switched to different national stores because of stolen personal information.

Notably, after the Equifax hack exposed Social Security numbers of nearly 150 million Americans, 11 percent of respondents indicated they have initiated a credit freeze. Another 5 percent said they are using alternative forms of currency, like bitcoin, to avoid fraud.

Finally, 60 percent of respondents said they or an immediate family member have been the victim of identity fraud, with the largest scam being letters, emails or phone calls from individuals falsely claiming they represent the IRS. The next most common scams are credit card theft and email phishing.

OWI Take: These poll numbers showing a lack of confidence come from a survey conducted in the fall of 2017, when the Equifax breach was at the top of consumers’ minds. While the numbers have likely faded some since, they still demonstrate the considerable hit to Trust & Safety that financial institutions took as the ripple effects from major breaches spread out. In particular, consumers who changed their purchasing habits and where they shop should drive the point home that transparency and honesty can directly translate to real-world dollars for service providers.