Should Americans Be More Scared of Fraud Than Terrorism?

It’s no surprise that this century’s main fears are fraud and terrorism.

You would have been hard-pressed to find any American concerned about either before the internet and the digital age had become entrenched in the American society. Coincidentally, this was also around the time that terrorism was brought dramatically into focus in the American psyche. While these two fears are self-evident, a July study from FICO showed us where these fears rank for the average American. Among the consumers consulted, 44% rated identity and banking fraud as their top concern, while terrorism was a worry for only 18% of them.

On the face of it, these statistics seem unbelievable. Who would rate financial woes as a bigger concern than a terrifying death or a severely traumatic experience? However, the likelihood of each of these unfortunate events happening is vastly different, so the fear of banking fraud may even be justified.

While the consequences of being caught up in a terrorist incident are clearly devastating, the likelihood of this happening is minuscule. Just over 3,400 Americans were killed by terrorist incidents between 2001 and 2014, meaning that, on average, terrorism was responsible for the death of 262 Americans per year. All in all, Americans have more chances of dying due to choking on food than in a terrorist attack so, statistically speaking, terrorism shouldn’t be a major cause for concern for most Americans.

Identity fraud, on the other hand, is much more likely to directly impact people’s lives. Javelin Strategy and research suggested that in 2016 alone, 15.4 million consumers were victims of fraud, up 16% from 2015. It is suggested the sum stolen by thieves was an astronomical $16 billion.

For anyone versed in matters related to data protection, this is hardly a surprising statistic. When data breaches occur, such as the recent and devastating Yahoo breach– which affected 3 billion accounts – the online data stolen from organizations becomes a healthy pipeline of targets for fraudsters. By gaining access to sensitive customer information, fraudsters can pose as, or learn enough about an individual to successfully use their identity to facilitate fraudulent purchases. This is made easier by poor consumer password practices; reusing passwords across multiple accounts and making them painfully easy to guess to anyone adept at social engineering.

There is one way to beat this 21st–century fear: a next century solution. Companies are forging a new path towards safer accounts by leveraging multi-modal solutions, for example the field of passive behavioral biometrics. These systems analyze the way users interact with their devices (the angle at which they are held, the pressure at which buttons are pressed), and it’s coupled with patterns of behaviors based on good and bad users. This builds up a picture that can accurately identify account takeover in 99% of instances. Combining passive biometric solutions, device, location and connection with two-factor authentication helps to drastically improve an organization’s chances of catching fraudsters in the act, and protecting their customers from the disastrous realities of banking fraud.

So, despite initial appearances, Americans are right to be more fearful of identity fraud than terrorism. Now it’s on the businesses to up their game in fraud security and put those fears to bed.

Want to learn more about Identity Proofing? Download Javelin’s latest report: 2017 Identity Proofing Platform Scorecard here.

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