April 6, 2009 By Hilton Collins
The worldwide financial crisis is exacerbating Americans' fear of identity theft, according to research conducted by Unisys Corp. That frightful possibility and financial woes are worrying Americans the most, according to the 2009 Unisys Security Index, a survey gauging consumer sentiment.
Seventy-four percent of 1,004 surveyed Americans believe that global economic turmoil heightens their vulnerability to identity theft or fraud-related activity. Seventy-four percent are also at least somewhat concerned about their ability to meet essential financial obligations, compared to 68 percent in fall 2008. Ninety percent this year are also at least somewhat concerned about becoming victims of credit or debit-card fraud, compared to slightly more than 85 percent in fall 2008.
Unisys conducts this security index globally twice a year. It was conducted Feb. 20-22, 2009, and the company announced the results in an April press release. The study assesses consumers' feelings on security in financial, national, Internet and personal security areas. The survey tallies these fears on a scale of 0 to 300. The national- and financial-security indexes are the highest this year at 154 and 164, respectively. Internet security scored 127, and personal security has an index of 143. The average index for all four is 147, indicating that Americans are moderately concerned with security overall.
Other survey findings include:
o Thirty-nine percent of Americans are extremely or very concerned with security of online transactions, less than the 41 percent who were in fall 2008;
o Fifty-eight percent of Americans are extremely or very concerned about terrorism and national security, less than the 65 percent who said they were in fall 2008;
o Sixty-three percent of women are concerned about national security, compared to 51 percent of men;
o Seventy-four percent of blacks, 52 percent of Hispanics and 39 percent of whites worry about meeting financial obligations; and
o Seventy-seven percent of Hispanics, 70 percent of blacks and 62 percent of whites worry about misuse of personal information.
Unisys conducted its first security index in August 2007. Financial security was Americans' third-highest concern that year, but is No. 1 in spring 2009.