One thing people are not doing very much: credit freezes. Only 2 out of 10 Americans (19 percent) have used a freeze to protect their credit.
"Credit freezes are too difficult to effectuate," says Hoofnagle. "In California, there is too much process required for enrollment, but other states are easing the burden both to enroll but also to thaw the file for purchases."
The dark alleys of the Internet
Even though most Americans say they rip up sensitive papers before tossing them, only 7 percent overall worry about a fraudster sifting through their trash to steal their information.
Interestingly, the top two avenues of identity theft that concern most Americans are those over which they have little or no control. The Internet tops the list of ID theft anxiety-instigators, with 45 percent of people fearing online fraud the most, while 25 percent rank leaks from businesses as their primary concern.
Our panel of experts was clearly stunned by the level of fear surrounding the Internet.
Which avenue of identity theft most concerns you?
|Type that scares you most?|
"Americans will go online but think that e-commerce subjects them to unmanageable identity theft risk," says Hoofnagle. "This is very harmful to e-commerce, and the fear is largely unfounded, because credit card fraud is not only unlikely but also unlikely to cause direct financial harm to the consumer."
The somewhat irrational trepidation concerning the Internet clearly affects consumer behavior. Out of those who answered the survey, 77 percent have Internet access. Of those with Internet, 36 percent say they try to protect themselves from fraud by not shopping on the Internet. Nearly half, 48 percent, avoid online banking.
"A huge number of people are forgoing online banking and e-commerce because of security concerns," says Hoofnagle. "That finding is astonishing and it represents a serious failure of e-commerce companies and banks to create a medium that individuals trust. Banks reasoned that online transactions would promote efficiencies, but the rise of phishing and a sustained reluctance of individuals to enroll are going to threaten the gains brought by this revolutionary medium."
Gartner's Litan believes consumers' mistrust toward online transactions is unfounded.
"Our surveys show the same thing -- that consumers tend to blame security breaches and incidents on the 'Internet' and they are more likely to change their online behavior than their behavior in the physical world as a result," she says. "This reaction is not based on the facts. The fact is that the large security breaches are happening at brick-and-mortar companies like TJX and Hannaford."
"From my experience, ID theft tied to online transactions is less than 5 percent," says Brian Lapidus, chief operating officer at Kroll's Fraud Solutions.