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12:43 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme

Identity Theft Is A Drag For Everyone

There's yet more evidence that privacy and security concerns, when it comes to online shopping, are on the rise. This time it's from a phone survey, released today, conducted by the University of Southern California's Center for the Digital Future.

There's yet more evidence that privacy and security concerns, when it comes to online shopping, are on the rise. This time it's from a phone survey, released today, conducted by the University of Southern California's Center for the Digital Future.The study found that the level of concern about credit card information increased to 57%. That figure isn't so surprising. What is surprising is the fact that, as of last year, only two-thirds of adult Internet users choose to buy anything online.

That means more than 33% of all adult Internet users have decided to completely ignore the Internet retail channel. And it's this group of people, the study finds, that are most worried about security and privacy when it comes to making online purchases.

Perhaps, despite the fact that online retailing continues to grow, the poor job online merchants have done securing their Web sites has actually curbed the growth of e-commerce. That would mean that investing in security, and conveying this fact to online shoppers, could actually be a revenue generator.

And while many businesses mistakenly believe that identity theft and credit card fraud is primarily a problem for consumers -- or a problem external to them -- it's not. Identity theft costs businesses and society significantly.

On its Web site, the Identity Theft Resource Center cites reports that the theft or loss of just one notebook, presumably holding customer information, can cost a business more than $90,000 in fines, consumer credit monitoring, PR crisis management, and fighting lawsuits that can follow a breach. An unnamed 2005 study pegged the mutual cost to consumers and businesses for identity theft at $56.6 billion.

As of last year, the FBI had at least 1,500 open identity theft investigation. The U.S. Post Office made 2,277 identity theft related arrests in 2005. More than 125 million records were reported compromised in this country, just last year, the center says.

Clearly, more needs to be done, as identity theft is destroying the financial lives of too many, costing society too much in terms of spent taxes, a huge burden for corporate victims (whether or not their breaches are through negligence or not), and possibly even curbing the growth of e-commerce.

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