First Data Releases Cybersecurity Study on Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

Study explores the attitudes and actions of different generations towards personal information protection

26% of consumers reported having PII information compromised within the last month; 34% within the last year

More than half of respondents who have performed a dark web scan found their personal information available on the dark web, including 90% of those ages 24-34

NEW YORK--()--As data breaches continue to make headlines across the globe, consumers are putting more thought into the personal information they make available, and businesses are fighting to keep consumer data secure. Today, First Data (NYSE: FDC), a global leader in commerce-enabling technology, announces the results of its 2018 Consumer Cybersecurity Study. The study explores the attitudes and actions of today’s consumers towards securing their Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and identifies trends that can give financial institutions, retailers, service providers and individuals themselves an extra edge in the battle for personal data.

The study is based on survey data from 1,767 U.S. consumers and aggregates responses across four unique age groups: Linksters (ages 18-23), Socializers (24-34), the MTV Generation (35-54), and Maturists (55+).

“The results of the survey show that consumers lack awareness as to how much of their PII is on the dark web, and have little trust in businesses’ abilities to keep their data safe,” said EJ Jackson, Head of Security and Fraud Solutions, First Data. “Advances in technology are opening new opportunities for fraudsters to obtain PII, and businesses must proactively respond by implementing technology solutions that keep consumer data safe and secure.”

Which Businesses do Consumers Trust? A Wide Gap in Consumer Opinions

The majority of consumers believe that fraud is inevitable within any industry. However, all generations tend to put more trust in regulated, records-driven businesses. Retailers and service providers who offer more convenient, quick-swipe payment channels, are not nearly as trusted.

Among the most trusted business types by consumers are Financial Services (46%), Healthcare (39%), and Insurance (30%) companies; the least trusted groups include Retail (8%), Foodservice/QSR (8%) and Petroleum (4%) businesses.

Consumers also reported similar differences in which industries they felt were best prepared to navigate the challenges of a data breach. Among the most prepared, consumers feel Financial Institutions (50%), Government (41%), and Healthcare (30%) business are best prepared. Conversely, consumer confidence was lowest among Petroleum (6%), Foodservice/QSR (6%) and Retail (11%).

Are Social Platforms a Haven for Identity Thieves?

With social platforms at the center of several recent and prominent data exposures, consumers are expressing caution around an emerging source of online risk. Nearly one in five (18%) of U.S. consumers say they’ve had a social media account hacked, and recent exposures are causing more users to delete accounts or change passwords.

  • Linksters, Maturists and the MTV Generation saw using social media channels as exposing more risk to their PII than activities such as online shopping, banking, or bill pay.
  • More than half of Linksters, Socializers and Maturists said they would be extremely or very likely to delete a personal social media account if that platform became connected with a data breach.

PII – More Available Than You Think

Consumer information is more readily accessible than many consumers may think. Among individuals who have performed a dark web scan, more than half in each generation said that at least some of their information appeared on the dark web. Socializers (90%) and Linksters (89%) were the most likely to find their PII on the dark web, but even Maturists (58%) found their personal information exposed more often than not.

Despite those results, the majority of consumers have yet to search the dark web to explore if their most critical data is available. Just 12% of Maturists had ever conducted a scan, Linksters (35%) and Socializers (33%) were most likely to have a conducted a scan for their own PII.

Is Ignorance Bliss? Consumers Believe PII is Safe Unless told Otherwise

Nearly one-fourth of consumers within each generation assume their personal information is safe unless notified of a breach. But the threat is real, and consumer data in the wrong hands may lead to many types of identity theft, including the most harmful result of a PII breach – Account Takeover fraud.

  • 26% of consumers reported having had PII information compromised within the last month
  • 34% experienced a compromise within the last year

Additional highlights of the study included:

  • 64% of consumers were worried most about having Social Security Numbers compromised, followed by Account Information (41%) and Login Passwords (34%)
  • 45% of consumers expect a retailer, provider or financial institution experiencing a data breach to notify them within one hour of discovery
  • 43% of consumers say they would still shop at a potential affected retailer, but only use cash; 11% said they would stop shopping at a retailer who experienced a breach
  • Despite a rapid increase in their use, consumers are skeptical about mobile payment platforms and their ability to safeguard PII

For a full version of First Data’s Cybersecurity Study on Personally Identifiable Information (PII) please visit

About First Data

First Data (NYSE: FDC) is a global leader in commerce-enabling technology and solutions, serving approximately six million business locations and 4,000 financial institutions in more than 100 countries around the world. The Company’s 22,000 owner-associates are dedicated to helping companies, from start-ups to the world’s largest corporations, conduct commerce every day by securing and processing more than 3,000 transactions per second and $2.4 trillion per year. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter at @FirstData.


Andrea Duffy
First Data
Phone: +1 646 984 0240


Andrea Duffy
First Data
Phone: +1 646 984 0240