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Most Americans Worry About Identity Theft, According to Poll

Survey shows vast majority concerned companies may sell their information or are not doing enough to keep it safe from theft.

Identity theft is a topic that weighs heavily on the minds of many Americans -- the vast majority of respondents (91 percent) in a new Zogby Interactive survey said they are concerned that their identity might be stolen and used to make unauthorized purchases.

The online survey, which includes a respondent base that is comfortable with the Internet, also shows that of those, half (50 percent) said they were very concerned about identity theft. Older adults are the most concerned -- 94 percent of those age 65 and older said they worry about the possibility of their identity being compromised. Even though younger adults are slightly less concerned, 86 percent of those age 18 to 29 said they worry about identity theft. Overall, 92 percent said protecting their identity is important.

The Zogby Interactive poll of 6,703 adults nationwide was conducted March 23-26, 2007, and carries a margin of error of +/- 1.2 percentage points.

In addition to identity theft, the survey also shows respondents worry about what companies might to do with personal information gathered about customers. The vast majority of respondents (91 percent) said they are concerned that retailers, credit card companies, banks and other firms could sell their personal information for marketing purposes. Nearly as many (83 percent) said they are concerned that information provided to retailers could end up in the hands of others, either through theft or sale.

Respondents' confidence in how aggressively their personal information is protected by such companies from theft also varies -- one in three (34 percent) said they are not confident that retailers, credit card companies, banks and other firms that have detailed records of a customer's personal information are taking the appropriate steps to safeguard that information. But more than one in four (28 percent) said they believe companies are doing a good job of keeping their information safe.

Not surprisingly, 85 percent of respondents said privacy of their personal information is important to them as consumers. But that is apparently not enough to drive people to the fine print -- 29 percent said they rarely read the privacy policies from retailers, credit card companies and banks about how they will use a customer's personal information -- and another 8 percent said they never do.

If a company says they will not share or sell customer information, nearly half (48 percent) believe the company will not do so, but 35 percent said they're skeptical that companies follow through with their promises to protect consumer privacy.