Survey Shows Online Identity Theft a Growing Concern

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Monetary and reputation threats top of mind for Americans

Once they have someone’s personal information, not only can they deplete bank accounts and damage credit ratings but they can also use a person’s computer to distribute spam and pornography; essentially they can damage someone’s wealth and reputation

In a recent survey about identity theft, Americans said their number one fear was having bank account, credit card or other personal information stolen from their computers. Interestingly, the second greatest concern was about Trojan viruses that can make a computer an unwitting accomplice in distributing spam, infections or child pornography. The survey was conducted by independent research firm Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research on behalf of Kindsight, developer of identity theft protection services.

Identity theft is not new and the threat is real and founded. In 2008, 9.9 million Americans were victims to identity theft, up from 8.1 million in 20071. And criminals are continuing to move online – online threats grew three-fold to 1.7 million.2 While much of the attention is focused on monetary loss, damage to reputation is also high in the minds of Americans.

“The online culprits are no longer the teen hackers in the basement, but sophisticated criminals,” said Mike Gassewitz, Kindsight CEO. “Once they have someone’s personal information, not only can they deplete bank accounts and damage credit ratings but they can also use a person’s computer to distribute spam and pornography; essentially they can damage someone’s wealth and reputation.”

The most common attacks include Trojan horses and other viruses, keystroke logging, phishing attacks and spyware. In the Kindsight study, participants named Trojan horses as their top concern.

Although 71% of the survey sample had installed and updated anti-virus software and 44% had enabled a firewall on their home router and/or computers, 30% still recorded having been infected by a virus in the last three months and 77% of the overall sample reported having been infected at some point in their computing life.

Summary of study findings:

  • 56% identified theft of bank account, credit card, or other personal information from their computer as one of their top two concerns;
  • 29% identified Trojan viruses that hijack their computers for the distribution of spam, infections, or child pornography to other computers and users as one of their top two concerns;
  • 27% identified phishing, which further reinforces identity theft as one of their top two concerns;
  • 26% were most concerned with having their computer’s performance compromised by viruses;
  • 15% were concerned about viruses corrupting their personal photos, videos and other memories.

The online survey was representative of the U.S. population overall with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

About Kindsight:
Kindsight partners with Internet service providers (ISPs) to provide consumers with an additional layer of protection against identity theft and other threats. The Kindsight Identity Theft Protection Service detects threats in your Internet traffic, sends you alerts and shows you step-by-step how to remove threats that put your personal information at risk. The Kindsight service is always-on, always-up-to-date and can not be disabled by criminals since it is embedded in the ISP’s network. The Kindsight service is offered for a monthly fee or, like search engines, at no-cost through relevant advertising. Visit http://www.kindsight.net for more information.

1 Javelin Strategy & Research: 2009 Identity Fraud Survey Report: Consumer Version
2 CNNmoney.com: Cybercrime: A secret underground economy, September 17, 2009

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Lisa Courtney Lloyd

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