A Nightmare Shoppers and Retailers Share

When you go to bed at night, do you leave the windows open and the front door unlocked?

Probably not.

Yet retailers tasked to safeguard shoppers’ personal data - as well as shoppers themselves – do the equivalent every day with their common financial behaviors that leave private information vulnerable to hackers. Everyone shares in shaping this nightmare: stores and shoppers aren’t often careful enough, and credit card issuers have resisted the use of chip technology in the United States that’s been shown in other nations to be more secure than magnetic stripe signature cards.

No wonder everyone tosses and turns over the prospect – some feel the likelihood – of being compromised by data thieves, and not being aware of it until after damage is done. Retailers that are more proactive in protecting consumer data could build trust in today’s environment of anxiety – especially since consumers recognize their own shortcomings and would value the support, says Facts, Figures & The Future (F3).      

We suggest this because findings of a new MasterCard survey show 77% of consumers are “anxious about their financial information and social security numbers being stolen or compromised.” This outpaces the 62% concerned their e-mail could be hacked, the 59% who fear their home could be robbed, and the 55% who’d “rather have their naked photo leaked online than have their financial information stolen.”

Despite these strong feelings, consumers keep their lackadaisical habits: 46% “rarely or never change passwords for online financial accounts”; 44% “use the same password for multiple online accounts”; 39% “have checked their financial data online on public networks.”

Moreover, nearly half (48%) of the MasterCard respondents believe they are most responsible for protecting their own information. So it follows that they give an otherwise favored breached retailer a second chance. In the 2015 SupermarketGuru-National Grocers Association Consumer Survey Report, 58.8% said, “a retailer deserves more than one chance – it depends on the circumstance” whether a breach would cause them to switch primary supermarkets. This figure plummets to 37.0% upon a second breach – which shows patience goes just so far.

Some 44% of consumers expect a retail breach in the coming 12 months, says a Unisys study conducted by Lieberman Research Group. The emotional and financial tolls are high with each breach. Here are some tips to keep customers from seeing this nightmare come true – from a list offered by Derrick Hughes, vice president, The Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company of Canada, to The Globe and Mail:

  • Establish two-factor authentication for all online business accounts.
  • Encrypt all data and stop using WiFi networks.
  • Outsource payment processing.
  • Use different devices to manage financial activities and e-mail and social media.
  • Keep only the data you need, update processes, and impose high standards on the security procedures of vendors and partners.
  • Use the latest version of your preferred browser.
  • Update operating systems.
  • Secure your Internet router.
  • Lock up physical records, create backups, encrypt and store off-site.
  • Establish and enforce companywide data security policies.

It’s good that neither people nor retailers die in their own dreams. It would be better still if everyone took stronger precautions to prevent the real-life nightmare of data theft.