SAN FRANCISCO (6/5/14)--Security breaches at Target and eBay and other large entities have apparently caused consumers to think twice before entering card data and other personal information to make purchases online, according to a USA TODAY survey.
Almost a quarter of U.S. consumers have at least temporarily stopped buying online because of concerns about security, according to the survey.
About 24% of those surveyed said they had stopped making online purchases in recent weeks because they were concerned about the safety of information they might put online.
Another 56% said they limited the number of Internet sites they used and were visiting the sites of large, well-known companies they deemed safe.
Consumers are logging online to keep tabs of their money. About 55% of respondents said they are checking banking, investment and credit card sites more often to verify that no one had accessed their accounts.
Whether the more cautious behavior will necessarily last is another question. Cameron Camp, a security expert with ESET, a San Diego-based security and antivirus company, likened the online purchasing freeze to a diet. "You're on good behavior for a while and then you return to whatever you were doing before," Camp told USA TODAY.
People with less education and lower incomes were more likely to stop buying anything online, according to the USA TODAY poll. Respondents with more education and higher incomes were more likely to have changed passwords and limited the sites they visit.
Thirty percent of people who had not attended any college had stopped buying online, compared with 16% of those with college degrees.
Of people with incomes under $30,000, 34% had stopped buying online compared with 15% of those with incomes of $75,000 or more.
About 64% of those surveyed said they had changed a password in the wake of security breaches.
The USA TODAY poll of 790 internet users was conducted May 29-June 1 by Princeton Survey Research, with a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
And consumers are likely to be even more cautious with their online information after American Express announced Wednesday in a letter to the California Attorney General's Office that 76,608 people in the state will get a breach notification letter after some of their data was published by Anonymous Ukraine earlier this year (CSO June 4).
In March, Anonymous Ukraine released more than 7 million records as part of a protest against the financial firms that helped "enslave" people the world over.
"AXP was informed by law enforcement that several large files containing personal information were posted on internet sites by claimed members of Anonymous, a worldwide hacking collective. The source(s) of the posted data is/are not currently known. The posted records contained varying data elements, but AXP has identified, and is providing notice via mail to, 58,522 California residents whose names and corresponding AXP account numbers were involved," the company's letter to the attorney general explained.