Higher Risk of Identity Theft for Younger Consumers, Despite Their Lower Levels of Concern: J.D. Power and Associates

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WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.: 4 March 2009 – Younger consumers-those included in Generation Y-tend to be at higher risk for identity theft, but are less concerned with the threat than are consumers in the Generation X and Baby Boomer demographics, according to the J.D. Power and Associates Identity Theft Report.SM

The inaugural report, conducted by the J.D. Power and Associates Web Intelligence Division, analyzes Internet postings from 70 million blogs and discussion boards that occurred between February 2008 and January 2009. The report is designed to provide executives in the financial services, credit protection, banking and insurance industries with ongoing measures of consumer attitudes regarding perceived risks and other issues pertaining to identity theft, and how these attitudes are influencing consumers’ shopping and buying habits.

Online conversations about identity theft indicate that 83 percent of posters in the Baby Boomer generation (those between the ages of 45 and 63) say they have a high level of concern about identity theft, compared with 79 percent of those in Generation X (ages 31 to 44) and only 47 percent of those in Generation Y (ages 19 to 30). Highly concerned online posters—those who proactively protect their identity—comprise 72 percent of posters discussing identity theft, while 24 percent say they are moderately concerned and 4 percent report a low level of concern.

“The differences in levels of concern regarding identity theft among the different generations can be partially attributed to their differing levels of technological awareness,” said Carter Truong, senior manager in the J.D. Power and Associates Web Intelligence Division. “Younger consumers tend to be more tech-savvy than older consumers, which gives them several benefits in protecting against identity theft. For example, their personal computers tend to be better protected and they’re more likely to recognize—and avoid—phishing scams than are older generations. However, younger people also tend to have more of a presence online, leaving them open to more chances for identity theft.”

The report also finds that women are more polarized in their level of concern than are men. Seventy-eight percent of women report being highly concerned about identity theft, and 6 percent say they have low levels of concern, compared with 67 percent of men with high levels of concern and 3 percent with low levels of concern.

“Women tend to discuss identity theft in a more reactive state, meaning that many online conversations were triggered by having already fallen victim,” said Truong. “However, more men than women fall into the moderately concerned category and discuss identity theft in their Web postings on a more proactive level. Men seem to be more aware of how to prevent identity theft, but this awareness often gives them a false sense of security. They know the risks of identity theft but don’t show much sign of changing their behaviors to prevent it.”

Online commentary indicates that, while people say they are aware of identity theft issues on social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook, a majority do not take security into consideration when creating their profiles. More often, people report changing their profiles to avoid embarrassment—for example, to keep a boss from seeing a particular picture.

“While social networking sites can be a hot spot for identity theft, people see these sites as a way to express themselves, and limiting or changing their profiles makes them feel like they’re censoring their identity,” said Truong. “While communicating online, people are unwilling to sacrifice this self-expression as a way to prevent identity theft.”

The report suggests the following tips to help consumers prevent identity theft:

  • Be aware of what people can see online. Ensure social networking pages don’t contain more information than you feel comfortable with someone easily accessing, and utilize any available privacy settings provided by the site.
  • Protect your information. Minimize putting sensitive information at risk by buying and using a paper shredder, and not using a wallet or purse as a place to store important documents.
  • Be careful with mobile devices. As cell phones, MP3 players and gaming devices become increasingly multi-functional, consumers need to ensure that their devices are equipped with security functions to protect sensitive information—which is especially important with smartphones, where consumers are increasingly conducting mobile banking and browsing the Internet.
  • Know your own finances. Consumers should request their credit reports regularly from an authorized organization, and frequently check bank and credit card transactions for fraudulent charges. Requesting your credit report regularly for this purpose does not adversely affect your FICO® score, according to the Fair Isaac Corporation.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. For those who don’t have the time or knowledge to thoroughly protect themselves from identity theft, companies such as LifeLock, Equifax and Debix can monitor consumers’ financial activity for a minimal monthly fee.

For more information, read an article on identity theft at JDPower.com.

The J.D. Power and Associates Web Intelligence Division is unique in its ability to assess both what is being said and who is doing the speaking in the online world. Its patent-pending technology enables the classification of posts and ability to estimate the gender and age of a poster, as well as rapid identification and elimination of spam posts. The Web Intelligence Division analyzes voices of the online community by using proprietary Natural Language Processing and machine-learning algorithms to dissect the who, what and why of online opinion, offering in-depth insights for some of the world’s leading brands.

About J.D. Power and Associates

Headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information services firm operating in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, performance improvement, training and customer satisfaction. The firm’s quality and satisfaction measurements are based on responses from millions of consumers annually. For more information on boat ratings, car reviews and ratings, car insurance, health insurance, cell phone ratings, and more, please visit JDPower.com. J.D. Power and Associates is a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies.

About The McGraw-Hill Companies

Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP) is a leading global information services provider meeting worldwide needs in the financial services, education and business information markets through leading brands such as Standard & Poor’s, McGraw-Hill Education, BusinessWeek and J.D. Power and Associates. The Corporation has more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Sales in 2008 were $6.4 billion. Additional information is available at http://www.mcgraw-hill.com/.