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Cybercrime Tops Americans' Crime Worries

Cybercrime Tops Americans' Crime Worries

Story Highlights

  • 67% of Americans worry about hackers stealing their personal information
  • 66% worry about identity theft
  • Americans most frequently report being victims of cybercrime

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans worry far more about becoming the victims of cybercrime than the victims of conventional crimes, with two-thirds of U.S. adults worrying at least occasionally about computer hackers stealing their personal information (67%) and having their identity stolen (66%).

How often do you, yourself, worry about the following things?
% Frequently or occasionally
Having your personal, credit card or financial information stolen by computer hackers 67
Being the victim of identity theft 66
Having your car stolen or broken into 38
Your home being burglarized when you are not there 36
Being the victim of terrorism 30
Having a school-aged child physically harmed attending school 26
Getting mugged 25
Your home being burglarized when you are there 23
Being a victim of a hate crime 22
Getting murdered 18
Being sexually assaulted 18
Being attacked while driving your car 18
Being assaulted/killed by a coworker/employee where you work 6
Gallup, Oct. 5-11, 2017

Since 2009, Americans' anxiety about identity theft has consistently topped their fears about other crimes by at least 19 percentage points. This year's gap between fear of cybercrime and the next-greatest level of crime worry, having a car broken into, is a wide 28 percentage points.

These data come from Gallup's annual Crime poll, conducted Oct. 5-11. In recent years, there has been a steady stream of reports about large-scale data breaches, including at Equifax in 2017, Anthem in 2015, Home Depot in 2014, Yahoo in 2013 and 2014, and Target in 2013. Americans' consistently high anxiety about cybercrime may be attributable partly to these media reports about high-profile incidents.

Gallup has asked Americans about their fears of being the victims of various crimes since 2000. However, cybercrimes are relatively new additions to the list. U.S. adults have been asked intermittently about worry about identity theft since 2009. The item about hackers stealing personal information was added to the survey this year, though prior surveys included questions on narrower cybercrime-related issues.

While Gallup's trend on Americans' worries about cybercrime is limited, it has been relatively consistent. The percentage of Americans who worry frequently or occasionally about being a victim of identity theft has hovered between 66% and 70% since 2009.

Trend: Two-Thirds of Americans Worry About Identity Theft

Americans' Cybercrime Worry Likely Related to Higher Victimization

Worry about cybercrime among U.S. adults may stem from its being more common, although substantial media coverage may contribute as well. Americans are more likely to report being the victim of cybercrimes than any of seven other crimes Gallup measures.

One in four (25%) Americans report that they or a member of their household has had personal information stolen by hackers in the last 12 months. Sixteen percent of U.S. adults report that they or a member of their household has been a victim of identity theft during that same time period. Having money or property stolen was the most common conventional crime to affect U.S. adults, with 12% saying they had been a victim of this activity in the last 12 months.

Americans' Crime Victimization in 2017
Please tell me which, if any, of these incidents have happened to you or your household within the last twelve months?
You or another household member had information stolen by computer hackers 25
You or another household member was the victim of identity theft 16
Money or property was stolen from you or another member of your household 12
A home, car or property owned by you or another household member was vandalized 10
Your house or apartment was broken into 3
A car owned by you or another household member was stolen 3
You or another household member was mugged or physically assaulted 2
You or another household member was sexually assaulted 2
Money or property was taken by force, with gun, knife, weapon or physical attack 1
Gallup, Oct. 5-11, 2017

There is relatively little difference in the likelihood of being a victim of cybercrime among most subgroups of Americans. However, middle-aged Americans are the most likely to experience both identity theft and loss of personal information to hackers, while seniors and adults younger than 30 are less likely.


Bottom Line

Of all criminal activity they experience, Americans are most concerned about cybercrime, and probably rightly so, given the high levels of reported rates of victimization. This worry is confirmed by other reports about cybercrime in the U.S. The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center reported an average of 280,000 complaints a year from 2000-2016. Additionally, major data breaches over the past several years have affected hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. and around the world, contributing to the overall anxiety concerning cybercrime.

While law enforcement agencies have made considerable efforts to tackle cybercrime, additional resources devoted to the issue and high-profile arrests of cybercriminals are likely necessary to calm the public's fears.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 5-11, 2017, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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