By Daniel Hunter

Nearly 4.6 million UK consumers have had their personal details stolen and their bank accounts used to buy goods or services, according to new research from business advisory firm Deloitte.

In addition, approximately two-thirds of consumers (65%) claimed to have received ‘phishing’ emails and one in three said they had been a victim of ‘cybersquatting’.

With so many people having fallen victim to cyber crime, the latest Deloitte Consumer Review found that less than half (44%) trusted companies to tell the truth about the quality of their data security procedures. Only 40% thought their data was safe when they shared it with a company - even one they trusted.

“People are doing more and more online, and as consumers’ digital activities expand, so does their data footprint," Chris Gaines, partner in Deloitte’s enterprise risk services practice, said.

"Consumer awareness of cyber crime is at an all-time high, fuelled by first-hand experience and media coverage of recent high profile security breaches, not to mention government regulation such as the EU ‘cookie law’ which requires organisations to tell web users how their cookies will be used.”

Indeed, nine out of 10 people said they had thought about the need to protect their activities and data online. Nearly the same number (88%) thought it was the responsibility of the companies that collect their data to keep it secure and protect them from fraud. Consumers want companies to take more action too. Three quarters (75%) said they want businesses to introduce more ID authentication processes on their websites, despite the extra effort this would mean for them.

Consumers are clearly placing the burden of security with the company, but this also presents an opportunity. Shopping around today is as easy as the click of a mouse or the tap of a touch screen, and two thirds (66%) of people said they were more likely to use companies that went out of their way to show customers they kept their information safe.

On the other hand, nearly one third (29%) of people affected by security breaches shifted their loyalty away from the company responsible for losing their data. Therefore, exceeding consumers’ expectations could help in maintaining loyalty and indeed enticing new customers from competitors. Not doing enough could well push them away.

“There is an opportunity for companies to gain a competitive advantage if they can show customers their information will be safe. Customers expect businesses to protect their personal information and are ready to shop elsewhere if these expectations are not met," Gaines added.

“Cyber attacks used to try to disrupt services or damage files, now customer data has also become a target. The information companies hold about their customers is one of their most valuable assets. In this new digital world, consumers will turn to trusted brands who they know will protect this data. Those that fail to act risk losing loyal customers.”

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