Poll: Public Doubts Credit Card Transactions Are Secure, Yet Keep Swiping

As millions of Americans swipe their credit cards to make holiday purchases, most of them doubt whether the transactions they are making are truly secure. That’s a finding of a new national survey conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.

Eighty-two percent of consumers say they are very or somewhat concerned that their credit card information can be stolen due to cyber breaches at businesses where they make purchases. Yet half of them–48 percent–say this concern has not caused them to alter their behavior by using their cards less or by paying for more things using cash, and 61 percent say these concerns have not prevented them for signing up for advantage cards offered by many retailers. Forty percent say they do try to use their cards less as result of security concerns, and 35 percent say it has caused them not to register for new cards.

A substantial population is open to enhanced security techniques such as requiring fingerprint scans, but less are in favor of eyes scans. Another finding: a majority of the public is concerned about cyber snooping on the part of retailers who track their purchasing behavior. The survey tracked the responses of consumers by their gender, as well.

Dr. Sreekanth Malladi, who teaches cybersecurity at Saint Leo University, reviewed all the survey findings to shed more light on how cyber protection mechanisms work, and to advise consumers what steps they can take to be and to feel more secure.

The survey asked shoppers the following about their levels of concern.

Several major retailers such as Target, Home Depot, and Kmart have experienced data security breaches in which their customers’ debit/credit card information may have been stolen. How concerned are you that your debit/credit card information could be stolen as a result of cyber security breaches at businesses you make purchases at?  Would you say…

 

All respondents

 

M

N=480

W

N=531

41 %

Very concerned

 

37

44

41 %

Somewhat concerned

 

43

38

10 %

Somewhat not concerned

 

11

9

6 %

Not at all concerned

 

7

6

3 %

Don’t know  / unsure

 

3

3

“In most cases, data breaches did not directly impact customers, but caused huge losses for companies,” said Dr. Malladi. “One of the affected companies, for example, spent millions of dollars to recreate and reissue their credit cards. Ultimately, the company incurred significant indirect losses including cleanups, remaking, gap in sales and reputation.”

The survey went on to ask consumers about their behavior.

Have security breaches made you stop using your debit/credit card or use it less?         

 

All respondents

 

M

W

7 %

Yes, stopped using my debit/credit card

 

7

7

33 %

Yes, use my debit/credit card less

 

31

36

6 %

No, don’t have a debit or credit card

 

5

6

4 %

No, was not aware of data breaches

 

4

4

48 %

No

 

51

45

3 %

Don’t know  / unsure

 

2

3

Have these data breaches led you to use more cash at retailers?

 

All respondents

 

M

W

39 %

Yes

 

35

42

56 %

No

 

60

52

4 %

No, I always pay with cash

 

4

5

1 %

Don’t know  / unsure

 

1

2

Has the news of recent data breaches prompted you to obtain a copy of your credit report?

 

All respondents

 

M

W

38 %

Yes

 

38

39

60 %

No

 

61

60

2 %

Don’t know  / unsure

 

2

2

Has news of recent data breaches kept you from signing up for in-store advantage cards?

 

All respondents

 

M

W

35 %

Yes

 

36

34

61 %

No

 

60

61

5 %

Don’t know  / unsure

 

5

5

The survey went on to ask people about beliefs about personal information storage.

With news of these data breaches, including hacked iCloud accounts, how confident are you that your personal online information is protected?

 

All respondents

 

M

W

10 %

Very confident

 

9

10

39 %

Somewhat confident

 

42

36

32 %

Not very confident

 

31

32

14 %

Not at all confident

 

12

15

6 %

Don’t know  / unsure

 

5

7

People seem to understand that cloud storage security is not guaranteed. That is good news. However, there needs to be an awareness of how to effectively manage their data storage to withstand data breaches and losses. Classifying data is an important step where data is divided into personal, official, confidential, important, unimportant etc.” commented Dr. Malladi. “Using an external, personal hard drive is recommended for important documents and personal pictures, while the cloud can be utilized for files that are not important, or do not need confidentiality or get frequently modified.”

The survey asked how people feel about technologies that might enhance security.

Due to the number of security breaches associated with credit/debit cards, would you be in favor of having the ability to pay with your fingerprint? 

 

All respondents

 

M

W

53 %

Yes

 

57

50

27 %

No

 

28

27

20 %

Don’t know  / unsure

 

16

23

Due to the number of security breaches associated with debit/credit cards, would you be in favor of having the ability to pay with an eye scan? 

 

All respondents

 

M

W

40 %

Yes

 

46

34

40 %

No

 

38

42

20 %

Don’t know  / unsure

 

16

24

The findings indicate that iris scan acceptance is lower than fingerprints. “That is not surprising. The order of acceptance of biometric authentication mechanisms was always found to be inversely proportional to the order of their effectiveness,” commented Saint Leo’s Malladi. “an iris scan is more accurate than a fingerprint.”

The survey also revealed some concerns about corporate monitoring of consumers.

How concerned or unconcerned are you that some companies are employing over-reaching measures that too closely monitor your personal data.  Would you say…

 

All respondents

 

M

W

30 %

Very concerned

 

31

29

46 %

Somewhat concerned

 

45

47

12 %

Somewhat not concerned

 

14

10

6 %

Not at all concerned

 

6

6

7 %

Don’t know  / unsure

 

5

9

But Dr. Malladi remarked: “It seems to be a myth–people think companies now have more access to their personal information than needed. Companies actually try to safeguard an individual’s personal information more than ever, since it will be their own loss if they don’t.” He added: “It is unfair for consumers to say: ‘We want you to properly authenticate transactions, but we will not give you our personal information to help it’.”

Finally, the survey about actual instances of fraud and consumers’ responses

Over the past 12 months, have you noticed any fraudulent charges on any of your credit accounts?    

 

All respondents

 

M

W

19 %

Yes

 

20

17

78 %

No

 

77

78

4 %

Don’t know  / unsure

 

4

4

Because your account was compromised, have you changed your spending patterns or usage in any way?  (The number answering this question was 176.)

 

All respondents

 

M

N=89

W

N=87

45 %

Yes, use credit/debit cards less

 

44

46

22 %

Yes, make fewer purchases

 

17

28

33 %

No

 

39

26

The full Saint Leo University Polling Institute national survey results on politics, Pope Francis’ favorability, technology and public policy, and college and professional sports, can be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

About the Saint Leo University Polling Institute/Methodology

This Saint Leo University poll of 1,016 adults nationwide was conducted between November 25 and December 6, 2014. The margin of error is approximately 3 percent +/- with a 95 percent confidence level. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allows for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive – usually $1.00 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account – for their participation. 

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