As the holiday shopping season approaches and on the heels of President Obama's bold move to require government-issued credit and debit cards to be equipped with new chip and PIN technology aimed at reducing fraud, the findings of a new Gallup poll are not only timely, but they also underscore the urgent need for action in protecting American consumers from growing threats to identity theft and credit card security. 

The poll found that Americans are deeply concerned about cybercrime, and considering recent data breaches at some of the nation’s most well-known retailers and banks, it is no surprise that such fears are increasing among consumers. 

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In fact, hacking ranked as the top worry among poll participants, far surpassing other crimes about which participants were asked. Gallup found that 69 percent of those polled said that having credit card information stolen by hackers was a frequent or occasional worry. 

More than one in four Americans polled said they, or another household member, had information from a credit card used at a store stolen by hackers in the last year, making it the most frequently experienced crime among the nine crimes included in the poll. This high crime frequency is a function of both the ever-increasing sophistication of hackers and the outdated, easily breached credit card technology distributed by banks and credit card companies. 

We cannot stand by idly as more consumers fear—and fall victim to—financial fraud as a result of inadequate data security measures. Rather, we need to take proactive steps and implement secure technologies that can prevent such crimes altogether.  The unprecedented uptick in recent data breaches in the commercial and retail sectors has left American consumers feeling a heightened sense of concern about the safety and security of their personal information, as evidenced in Gallup’s new and revealing poll. 

American consumers face mounting threats to their financial security that are more widespread and more sophisticated than ever before. The pervasiveness of hacking and insufficient technological protections has made every American a potential victim. It is time that the United States joins the rest of the world in upgrading our dated, insecure credit card security system and making chip and PIN technology standard practice.  

In this regard, President Obama executive order is a step in the right direct, but without similar steps by the banking and credit card industry, consumers will remain exposed to the growing threat of identity theft. 

Hackers will undoubtedly continue pursuing new methods to conduct their attacks, and that means the United States must get serious about taking action to protect consumers and our economy. American banks and credit cards issuers should take note of this important poll data and take its findings as a wake-up call to invest in and implement commonsense safeguards, like chip and PIN technology. 

Pociask is president of the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, a nonprofit educational and research organization.  For more information about the Institute, visit www.theamericanconsumer.org.