March 6, 2009, 12:00 AM

Consumers worried about data theft are shopping less online, Gartner says

39% of consumers surveyed say they have changed their behavior because they are worried that their personal data may be stolen, and most of those concerned consumers are cutting back on online shopping, Gartner says.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

39% of consumers surveyed say they have changed their behavior because they are worried that their personal data may be stolen, and most of those concerned consumers are cutting back on online shopping, according to a survey by research and consulting firm Gartner Inc.

59% of those who have changed behavior say they have curtailed online shopping. Of those, 71% say they are more cautious about where they purchase online, 67% more careful about entering personal and financial information on web sites, 30% say they shop less online and 28% say they abandon a session if redirected to another web site to enter payment information. 15% say they have stopped shopping on the web completely, according to the survey of 5,000 consumers in September.

Among those who say they have reduced the amount they spend online, 10% say by 75% or more, 24% by 50% to 74%, 41% by 25% to 49%, 19% by 10% to 24% and 6% by less than 10%.

Among those who say they have changed the way they pay online, 42% say they more often use PayPal, an online payment service owned by eBay Inc. 27% say they use credit cards more often and 18% use debit cards more frequently. Those consumers may be aware of the payment protections offered by credit and debit card issuers, says Avivah Litan, the Gartner analyst who authored the report “2008 Data Breaches and Financial Crimes Scare Consumers Away.”

The survey found that 7.5% of consumers lost money as the result of some sort of financial fraud in 2008. Among fraud victims, 71% say they have changed their behavior because of security concerns, compared with 39% for all those surveyed.

Data breaches in which criminals gain access to consumers` personal or financial information were the most common cause of fraud. “This should come as no surprise,” Litan writes in her report, “given the 657 data breaches documented in 2008, which is a 47% increase over 446 breaches documented in 2007, according to the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center.”

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