Data Breaches Make For Hesitant Consumers This Holiday Season

Next week, millions of customers will pull out their wallets for Black Friday. Consistent with this tradition, consumers will stock up on gifts for the holiday season, but recent security breaches may impact their shopping habits.

A recent Morning Consult poll shows that Americans are hesitant to purchase gifts both in-store and online when data breaches, such as the Target and Home Depot hacks, are on their mind.

Morning Consult asked voters about their holiday spending habits and found that they’re less likely to buy presents or gift cards if they’d been reminded of the data breaches. For example, 47 percent of consumers say they plan to buy gift cards in stores, while 36 percent of those considering the hackings plan to do the same.

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Their hesitation follows Home Depot’s data breach in September, when 56 million credit and debit cards were compromised. Similarly, the Target breach last holiday season accessed 40 million cards and an estimated 70 million customer accounts.

Reticent consumers between now and the end of the year could hurt the bottom line for U.S. retailers, many of whom rely on the holiday shopping season for more than half of their annual sales revenue. The breaches also anger the credit unions and banks that often have to foot the bill by issuing new cards to customers.

Congressional efforts on the cybersecurity front stalled in the Senate earlier this year. A bill that would allow information-sharing between the federal government and the private sector is unlikely to see action until 2015 due to consumer privacy concerns.

Meanwhile, the holiday shopping season waits around the corner. Most consumers will head to a store to check names off their lists, as in-store purchases are still the preferred method for gift-buying, according to the poll results.

The poll was conducted Nov. 13 through Nov. 16 among a national sample of 1,811 registered voters. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

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