August 16, 2005

Results of a survey recently released by Unisys, the Blue Bell, Pa.-based information technology services and solutions provider, indicate a serious lack of concern among U.K. consumers when it comes to fraud. As a result, this attitude could be helping to perpetuate the identity theft industry there, which is estimated to cost U.K. companies 1.3 billion pounds annually.

The independent study, commissioned by Unisys, surveyed 1,000 U.K. households for incidence of and attitudes toward financial fraud. Results showed that one in 10 U.K. consumers (11 percent) have been fraud victims. Despite this, 61 percent of respondents said they have no concerns about the safety of their money at their banks or building societies. This contrasts with a similar U.S. study conducted last August that found only 49 percent of U.S. respondents were not worried about their money.

Despite the relatively high incidence of identity theft, most consumers are not interested in proactively helping to manage fraud risk, according to the study. Fifty-eight percent of participants admitted they had no desire to be educated about banking security or fraud protection. Half said they would not change financial institutions to obtain better security.

The results also indicate that the U.K. banks and building societies are doing little to educate their customers on the issue of fraud. Three out of four consumers (73 percent) claimed they were never contacted by their financial institution to discuss potential fraud alerts or to verify transactions.

"U.K. consumers appear to be happy to continue banking blindly, regardless of the threat of identity theft," said Nigel Moden, retail banking partner at Unisys, in a statement. "This laissez-faire attitude not only encourages increasingly audacious and industrial-scale fraud, but also translates into millions of pounds being stolen each year from customers in the U.K. ... Consumer self-interest and the interest of the banks is not aligned, as the financial risk largely rests with the financial institutions. ... There needs to be a renewed commitment to effective consumer security education, with the financial institutions potentially incentivising consumers to join the fight against fraud."