April 13, 2010

Identity theft is among the top concerns of American citizens, with 64 percent saying they are seriously concerned about its implications, according to the latest update to the Unisys Security Index, released April 13.

The biannual report, published by Blue Bell, Penn.-based information technology service provider Unisys Corporation, also indicated that about two-thirds of Americans are seriously concerned about credit and debit card fraud, while concerns about the safety of online transactions reached their highest recorded levels.

While this may sound bleak, Sidney Pearl, global director of risk intelligence solutions management for Unisys said consumer concerns are in part the result of increased awareness about the importance of identity protection. As people continue to use various types of personal identifiable information for transactions across the Web, it is up to both the consumers and the banks that serve them to guard against potential fraud and identity theft.

"It's a multi-fold strategy in that (banks) have a responsibility to educate, a responsibility to protect and to secure," he said. "Banks have to be able to provide the technology to protect the consumer's information."

Meanwhile the consumers, Pearl said, have the responsibility of taking ownership of their transactions, as well as being smart about where they do business online and with whom they share personal information. Still, financial institutions ultimately carry the largest breadth and depth in fraud protection.

"I think most banks in general, especially in the U.S., have taken the necessary steps to putting into place what I consider to be traditional fraud protection and analysis," Pearl said. "In the real world, fraud doesn't always work like that; the reality is the criminals are already moving (several) steps ahead."

He believes the next step for banks is to move beyond traditional fraud protection and into what he called "risk intelligence"—or a deeper understanding of criminal behavior in an effort to stop crime before it occurs.

Identity theft was also a top concern in the United Kingdom, according to the Unisys report, with 87 percent of U.K. adults concerned about unauthorized access to their personal information. That same percentage of people was also concerned about others obtaining or using their credit or debit card details.

The Unisys Security Index is a global study with data collected through surveys of 10,000 people in 11 countries. Pearl said one of the driving factors behind the biannual survey is for Unisys to continue helping government and large commercial organizations protect their information, as well as to continue implementing new solutions.