In The Dark: Consumers Fear PII Theft, But Few Scan The Dark Web To Find Out

Email addresses have been exposed in just about all of the major data breaches. But consumers aren’t worried about that.

What scares them more is theft of Social Security numbers, according to First Data’s 2018 Consumer Cybersecurity study.

Of the consumers surveyed, 64% are worried most about their SSNs being stolen, followed by account information (41%) and login passwords (34%).

And they have reason to be troubled. The study also shows that 26% have had personally identifiable (PII) information compromised in the last month, and 34% have suffered exposure in the past year.

Not that they necessarily want to find out: Most have not yet scanned the dark web to see whether their personal data is available.

First Data surveyed 1,767 U.S. consumers. It broke the respondents into four age groups: Linksters (ages 18-23), Socializers (24-34), the MTV Generation (35-54), and Maturists (55+).

Of those who did conduct a dark web scan, 90% of the Socializers (90%) and 89% of the Linksters found their PII staring at them on the dark web. So did 58% of the Maturists, although only 12% have ever done such a scan.  



A fourth of those surveyed say they will wait until a breach occurs before they get exercised.

Those in the younger age categories fear that social media channels present more risk to their PII than normal online shopping, banking or bill paying activities—indeed, 18% have had a social account hacked. In addition, consumers doubt that mobile payment platforms can protect safeguard their PII. Email isn’t even listed in the threat roster. 

Half would delete a social media account if the platform was breached.

Who do they trust? Financial services companies rank the highest, with 46% who have faith in them. Healthcare institutions are next (39%), followed by insurance providers (30%). The least trusted brands are in the retail (8%), food service/QSR (8%) and petroleum (4%) fields.  

But consumers have expectations: In the event of a breach, they expect retailers and financial institutions to notify them within an hour of discovery.

They are forgiving up to a point — 43% would continue to shop at a retailer that has been breached, but would only use cash. Only 11% would stop shopping there.

“The results of the survey show that consumers lack awareness as to how much of their PII is on the dark web, and have little trust in businesses’ abilities to keep their data safe,” states EJ Jackson, head of security and fraud solutions for First Data.

Jackson adds: “Advances in technology are opening new opportunities for fraudsters to obtain PII, and businesses must proactively respond by implementing technology solutions that keep consumer data safe and secure.”


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