Is Identity Theft Scarier Than Burglary And Murder?

What crimes do Americans fear the most? Not burglary, murder or even terrorism. Most of us are afraid of something that we invite into our homes and lives on a daily basis. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, the most feared crime in America is having your credit card information stolen at stores (69% of us fear it most) and the second-most-feared crime is having your computer or smartphone hacked (62%). Tech crimes and scams rank far above other feared crimes, such as having your home burglarized when you aren’t there (45%) or having your car stolen or broken into (31%). 

These fears are even more pronounced among Boomers and seniors than among younger generations. (Ironically, Boomers are actually less in danger of being hacked than Millennials because they take more precautions with passwords.) 

And, among purely financial fears, the fear of identity theft continues to rise as we age. According to the 2015 Life + Money Survey by GOBankingRates, it’s the number two fear among Boomers (after not having enough money to retire). Post-retirement, identity theft is the number one fear.



Of course, these fears are well-justified. From Home Depot and Target to Verizon, JP Morgan, Walgreens and CVS, the list of companies with data breaches goes on and on. 

So, how should these very legitimate fears impact the ways in which marketers reach out to Boomers and seniors? The answer isn’t to back away from technology completely. Older consumers feel comfortable with using the computer for research and price comparisons. Their fears just have them worried about divulging detailed, personal information online. 

These trends have been borne out through our own research. Senior and early Boomer consumers we’ve talked to feel comfortable gathering information on the computer. (In fact, they’re a lot more tech-savvy than their adult children realize.) They do have a high level of concern that inputting personal information will leave them vulnerable to hacking and identity theft. 

The high prevalence of cybercrime and accompanying fears make a multi-faceted marketing approach of digital and “classic” media even more important. Here are some tips for allaying cyber fears: 

  • On your website: Prominently display seals and messaging about security of personal information. Make the checkout process quick, with fewer steps and fast load times.
  • Include direct mail in the mix. Snail mail in mailboxes is annoying — but not as annoying as false charges on credit card statements.
  • Use the old-fashioned phone call. Many Boomers and seniors like to talk to a real person, so make sure 1-800 numbers are displayed prominently on websites as well as in direct mail, print and other media.
  • Consider a real person. Recent research by Mintel found that, in some fields, such as insurance, older consumers have a strong preference for agents.

Despite their fears of hacking and identity theft, Boomers are glued to technology for hours every day. In fact, a 2014 eMarketer study found that, of people 55 and older, 68% use more than one tech device at the same time. No wonder we’re all suffering from technostress. Kind of makes you wish for the good old days, when public speaking, heights and snakes topped our fears list.

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