Fewer conducting financial transactions online for fear of ID theft

A study released today says consumers are shying away from online banking and shopping until there's proof these services are more secure.

No surprise that consumers have grown more leery about doing business online, but a study released today suggests some customers, mostly abroad, actually are retreating from online banking and e-commerce to prevent identity theft.

An online survey of almost 1,500 primarily European consumers conducted by research

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firm Infosurv indicates 13% reduced or outright quit doing online banking in the last year because of perceived insecurities. Almost as many cut back or eliminated buying products or services on the Internet for the same fear of fraud.

"What we're starting to see is an actual declination in the use of these services," said Chris Voice, vice president of technology for identity management provider Entrust Inc., the Addison, Texas-based company that commissioned the Internet security study.

A broader study released in October by the same vendor focused primarily on North American consumers and indicated people were willing to place trust in online financial services and e-commerce provided they were better secured. This most recent survey reflects a more dramatic reaction in nations such as United Kingdom and Germany, which have a 10% higher online commerce use rate than in the United States, according to the two surveys, but suffer from the same lack of trust in such transactions.

Almost 80% of European consumers said they were concerned someone might steal their identities online, with 31% of U.K. residents and 11% Germans saying they were "very concerned."

"That's a very, to me, startling result because of how fast this is translating to impact the consumer buying behavior, and that's got to be of concern to anybody doing transactions online," Voice said. "What's continued to be mirrored in these results is it's impacting their behavior and should be pushing to make the Internet more secure."

But the same survey indicates as much as people want more secure transactions, they don't want to pay for them. While an overwhelming number agreed two-factor authentication would instill stronger faith in online banking and e-commerce, just as many were not willing "to incur any additional expense to increase the security of their online identity."

The Infosurv survey comes just days after one by Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner Inc. that indicates some 85% of U.S. online consumers now refuse to open suspicious e-mails -- even those from legitimate companies trying to save on costs by communicating via electronic mail. Three of four online shoppers use more caution when doing business over the Web, and a third have reduced their online spending because of security concerns.

Entrust, which counts more than 1,400 enterprise and government customers of its identity management tools, this spring released Entrust Identity Guard, a challenge-response authentication system that prompts users for coordinates on a grid affixed to a wallet-sized card. Among its newest customers is the New Zealand Ministry of Defense.

"It's becoming very clear that there's not only a business impact from not being as secure as possible, but there's also an upside when you've got people willing to do transactions if there's better security. Stop these people from leaking out of the system and you'll have a better business return," Voice said. "But the data definitely shows consumers want this protection but, doggone it, they're not going to pay for it."

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