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8 in 10 Americans Concerned about the Ability of Businesses to Safeguard their Financial and Personal Information: AICPA Survey

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8 in 10 Americans Concerned about the Ability of Businesses to Safeguard their Financial and Personal Information: AICPA Survey
  • Nearly half of Americans say ID theft is likely to cause them financial loss in the next year.
  • Only 3 in 5 Americans report having ever looked at their credit score.
  • According to a leading cyber security company, cybercrime cost U.S. consumers $19.4 billion of their own money in 2017.

Another day, another data breach. Recent news about cybercriminals obtaining more than 5 million credit card numbers from high-end U.S. retailers joined a series of major hacks and online data breaches. In 2017 alone, roughly 143 million U.S. adults, were hit by some form of malware, virus, spyware or phishing scam. Unfortunately, the frequency of attacks on Americans’ personal information has fostered a feeling of inevitability. In fact, according to results released today from a telephone survey conducted by The Harris Poll for the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) of 1,006 Americans adults in the fall of 2017, nearly half of U.S. adults (48 percent) think it is at least somewhat likely identity theft will cause them financial loss in the next year.

“Protecting your information is an ongoing process that requires you to be vigilant, identify where you can improve and take action to firm up your safeguards,” said Gregory Anton, CPA, CGMA, chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “This means regularly monitoring your credit card and bank statement and periodically checking your credit report for anything that looks out of the ordinary.”

While the survey finds that three out of five Americans (61 percent) have at least looked at their credit report, more than a third (35 percent) have never once checked. This is particularly alarming, as a majority of those who have checked their credit (66 percent) had to take steps with a credit reporting agency to correct inaccuracies, with the average being 13 specific corrections among those who have taken steps at least once. More distressing, those with a household income of less than $35K were found to be more likely to never have looked at their credit report than those with a household income of $100K+ (44 percent vs. 30 percent).

“Having a good credit score and access to favorable interest rates is something that benefits people of all income brackets, but it is particularly important for those who are in a financial situation where a few percentage points in interest would make a big impact on their financial wellbeing,” added Anton. “Everyone should check their credit score for free with one of the three major credit reporting agencies at least once a year and not wait until suspicious activity occurs.”

The frequency and scope of these cyber-attacks has many Americans questioning the effectiveness of cybersecurity practices businesses currently have in place. In fact, eight in ten Americans (81 percent) said they are at least somewhat concerned about the ability of businesses to safeguard their financial and personal information, with two in five (40 percent) reporting that they are extremely or very concerned.

With security breaches costing U.S. consumers $19.4 billion of their own money, this may be a cause for action. The survey found four in five Americans (81 percent) said they’ve changed their behavior based on the threat of cyber breaches affecting credit card and debit card processing systems.  Those changes include a majority increasing self-monitoring of credit and debit card accounts for fraudulent activity (56 percent), while about 4 in 10 are either using cash and/or checks more often (43 percent) or choosing to shop at locally owned stores more often instead of national retailers (40 percent).

“While it’s positive that American are taking steps to mitigate the risk from cyber breaches, each time there is a new breach in the headlines there is the risk that the public becomes numb,” added Anton. “Identity theft may seem like it’s inevitable, but our message is that it doesn’t have to be.”

A quarter of Americans (26 percent) said they have reduced their online presence, either turning off social media or visiting fewer websites because of concerns about data security. One in five (20 percent) have signed up for additional fraud detection or credit monitoring. Roughly 1 in 10 report they are switching their shopping to different national stores because of concern about data breaches (11 percent), placing a freeze on their credit (11 percent), or shopping online more often, because they feel like it is safer (11 percent). Five percent said they use alternative forms of currency.

aicpa info

 

Additional Findings – Victims of Scams:

The survey found that three in five U.S. adults (60 percent) report that they or an immediate family member have ever been the victim of a scheme to defraud them, including:

  • 34 percent — A letter, email or phone call from someone impersonating the IRS
  • 28 percent — Theft of an existing credit card number
  • 26 percent — A fraudulent email phishing scam
  • 18 percent — Solicited for donations for a fraudulent disaster relief charity
  • 11 percent — Opening a new line of credit in your or their name
  • 10 percent — A ponzi or pyramid scheme
  • 6 percent — Someone obtaining a tax refund in your or their name

The AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission offers the following tips to help Americans prevent and mitigate the effects of identity theft:

  • Monitor your credit report & set protections. You can request a free credit report from all three major credit reporting agencies once a year, including TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Additionally, some monitoring services allow you unlimited access to your credit information year-round. These services are there to help you spot inaccuracies, potential fraud and more on your credit report. This should also be done for children. Theft of a child’s ID may go undetected for many years such that by the time they are adults, the damage has already been done.
  • Don’t provide your Social Security number unless it’s necessary. A space for it on a form doesn’t necessarily mean that it is required. For example, your doctor’s office may use a unique number issued by your insurance company to enter your claim but their form may have a space for SSN anyway. Don’t be afraid to ask if they really need it.
  • Make sure your WIFI network at home is secured with a password. A skilled data thief can access information on an unsecured network. Additionally, when away from home, avoid providing credit card or other personal information on unsecured Wi-Fi networks like those in airports or coffee shops.
  • Don’t provide personal information in response to any unsolicited communication. Even if the caller, text or email claims to be from a bank or credit card company needing to “verify” your account to “prevent fraud.”  If in doubt, call the number on your bank statement or the back of your credit card.
  • What to do if it happens? Act quickly to limit the damage. Call your credit card company and report it to them. They will close your card and issue a new one. File a police report to ensure that you are covered for any damages that you may incur. If your Federal return is affected, call the IRS 800-908-4490 and file Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit.

For more information about what to do in the event of identity theft, 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy offers tips here.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted by The Harris Poll by telephone within the United States between October 12 and 15, 2017, among 1,006 adults (503 men and 503 women aged 18 and over) including 506 interviews from the landline sample and 500 interviews from the cell phone sample. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted (using data from the Current Population Survey) where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

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Deloitte: Middle East organizations need to rethink their workforce in the wake of COVID-19

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Deloitte: Middle East organizations need to rethink their workforce in the wake of COVID-19 1

Organizations in the Middle East have had to take immediate actions in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as shifting to remote and virtual work, implementing new ways of working and redirecting the workforce on critical activities. According to Deloitte’s 10th annual 2020 Middle East Human Capital Trends report, “The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward,” organizations now need to think about how to sustain these actions by embedding them into their organizational culture.

“COVID-19 has created a clarifying moment for work and the workforce. Organizations that expand their focus on worker well-being, from programs adjacent to work to designing well-being into the work itself, will help their workers not only feel their best but perform at their best. Doing so will strengthen the tie between well-being and organizational outcomes, drive meaningful work, and foster a greater sense of belonging overall,” said Ghassan Turqieh, Consulting Partner, Human Capital, Deloitte Middle East.

According to the Deloitte report, many organizations in the Middle East made quick arrangements to engage with employees in the wake of the pandemic through frequent communications, multiple webinars where senior leaders addressed employee concerns, virtual employee events, manager check-ins, periodic calls and other targeted interactions with the workforce.

The report also discussed how UAE and KSA governments have reexamined work policies and practices, amended regulations and introduced COVID-19 initiatives to support companies and the workforce in the public and private sectors. Flexible and remote working, team-building and engagement activities, well-ness programs, recognition awards and modern workspaces are among the many things that are now adding to the employee experience.

Key findings from the Deloitte global report include:

  • Only 17% of respondents are making significant investments in reskilling to support their AI strategy with only 12% using AI primarily to replace workers;
  • 27% of respondents have clear policies and practices to manage the ethical challenges resulting from the future of work despite 85% of respondents saying the future of work raises ethical challenges;
  • Three-quarters of leaders are expecting to source new skills and capabilities through reskilling, but only 45% are rewarding workers for the development of new skills; and
  • Only 45% of respondents are prepared or very prepared to take advantage of the alternative workforce to access key capabilities despite gig workers being likely to comprise 43% of the U.S. workforce this year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Worker well-being is a top priority today, and similarly to the rest of the world, companies in the Middle East are focusing their efforts to redesign work around well-being by understanding workforce well-being needs,” said Rania Abu Shukur, Director, Human Capital, Consulting, Deloitte Middle East.

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One in five insurance customers saw an improvement in customer service over lockdown, research shows

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One in five insurance customers saw an improvement in customer service over lockdown, research shows 2

SAS research reveals that insurers improved their customer experience during lockdown

One in five insurance customers noted an improvement in their customer experience over lockdown, according to research conducted by SAS, the leader in analytics. This far outweighed the 11% of customers who felt it had deteriorated over the same period.

This is positive news for insurers during such challenging times, with 59% of customers also saying that they would pay more to buy or use products and services from any company that provided them with a good customer experience over lockdown.

The improvement in customer experience also coincides with a rise in the number of digital customers. Since the pandemic started, the number of insurance customers using a digital service or app has grown by 10%. Three-fifths (60%) of new users plan to continue using these digital services moving forward.

However, while the number of digital users grew over lockdown, half of the insurance customer base has not yet chosen to move to digital insurance apps or services.

Paul Ridge, Head of Insurance at SAS UK & Ireland, said:

“It’s impressive that there was a net improvement in customer experience during lockdown, despite the challenges the industry was facing with a transition to remote working and increased claims for things like cancelled holidays. While many were forced to wait on customer help lines for long periods, part of the improvement may be explained by even a small (10%) increase in the number of digital users.

“However, it’s clear that a huge number of customers are still yet to make the move online. It’s vital that insurers provide the most accurate, timely and relevant offerings to customers, and this is best achieved by having additional insight into online customer journeys so they can understand them better. Using analytics and AI, insurers can seize this opportunity to digitalise their customer experience and offer a more personalised approach.”

Meanwhile, for insurers that fail to offer a consistently satisfactory customer experience, the price could be severe. A third (33%) of customers claimed that they would ditch a company after just one poor experience. This number jumps to 90% for between one and five poor examples of customer service.

For more insight into how other industries across EMEA performed during lockdown, download the full report: Experience 2030: Has COVID-19 created a new kind of customer? 

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The power of superstar firms amid the pandemic: should regulators intervene?

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The power of superstar firms amid the pandemic: should regulators intervene? 3

By Professor Anton Korinek, Darden School of Business and Research Associate at the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute. Gosia Glinska, associate director of research impact, Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Darden School of Business

Recent news that Apple hit a market cap of USD2 trillion highlights an extraordinary success story: A once struggling computer-maker on the verge of bankruptcy innovates its way to becoming the most valuable publicly traded company in the United States.

Apple’s 13-figure valuation is indicative of a larger trend that is not entirely benign — the rise of a handful of superstar firms that dominate the economy. Over the past three decades, advances in information technology, mainly the Internet, have supercharged the superstar phenomenon, allowing a small number of entrepreneurs and firms to serve a large market and reap outsize rewards. And COVID-19 has greatly accelerated the phenomenon by pushing us all into a more virtual world.

Apple — along with Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Netflix — is a case in point. The combined market value of those six companies exceeds USD7 trillion, which accounts for more than a quarter of the entire S&P 500 index. Even amid the pandemic’s economic wreckage, these megacompanies continue to prosper. The combined share price for Apple and its five peers was up more than 43 percent this year, while the rest of the companies in the S&P 500 collectively lost about 4 percent.[1]

Superstar firms can be found in almost every sector of the economy, including tech, management, finance, sports and the music industry. They command increasing market power, which has consequences for technological, social and economic progress. It is, therefore, critical to understand how their advantages arose in the first place.

THE FORCES BEHIND THE SUPERSTAR PHENOMENON

The “economics of superstars” was first studied by the late University of Chicago economist Sherwin Rosen. Forty years ago, Rosen argued that certain new technologies would significantly enhance the productivity of talented workers, enabling superstars in any industry to greatly expand the scope of their market, while reducing market opportunities for everyone else.[2] Digital innovations, including advances in the collection, processing and transmission of information, is what Rosen envisioned would lead to the superstar phenomenon.

Digital technologies are information goods, which are different from the traditional, physical goods in the economy. What it means is that fundamentally different economic considerations apply. Unlike physical goods — a loaf of bread or a car — information goods have two key properties: They are non-rival and excludable. Non-rival means that something can be used without being used up. Excludability means that an owner of digital innovation can prevent others from using it, by protecting it with patents, for example. These two fundamental properties of information goods are what give rise to the superstar phenomenon.

In a working paper I co-authored with Professor Ding Xuan Ng at Johns Hopkins University[3], we described superstars as arising from digital innovations that require upfront fixed costs that allow firms to reduce the marginal costs of serving additional customers.[4] For example, once an online travel agency has programmed its website at a fixed cost, it can easily displace thousands of traditional travel agents without much additional effort, scaling at near-zero cost.

Because a firm can exclude others from using its digital innovation, it automatically gains market power. The innovator then uses that power to charge a mark-up and earn a monopoly rent — basically, a price superstars charge in excess of what it costs them to provide the good — which we call the ‘superstar profit share’.

THE POLICYMAKER’S DILEMMA

In a vibrant free market economy, businesses compete for customers by innovating and improving their offerings while keeping prices low; otherwise, they are displaced by more innovative rivals entering the market. Unfortunately, the increasing monopolization of the economy by technology superstars is weakening the competitive environment around the world.

Monopoly power is the main inefficiency from the emergence of superstar firms, because superstars can exclude others from using the innovation that they have developed.

So, what policy measures can be employed to mitigate the inefficiencies arising from the superstar phenomenon?

We do have antitrust policies designed to promote competition and hence economic efficiency. Authorities could take a drastic measure and break up monopolies. Or they could tax all those excess profits megacompanies make.

Another policy to consider involves giving consumers control rights over their data. Right now, only companies have that data, and they are selling it. If you free it up and don’t allow them to sell it anymore, it reduces their monopoly profits. And if you give consumers more freedom over their data, they could, for example, share it with the latest start-up and create a more competitive landscape.

However, such policy remedies can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they reduce monopoly rents. On the other hand, they can also reduce innovation.

Innovation requires investments in R&D, which represent a significant sunk cost that only large firms can afford. Government regulations can easily backfire, discouraging large firms from making long-term R&D investments.

What, then, is the best policy intervention? Professor Ding Xuan Ng and I believe that basic research should be public. Digital innovations should be financed by public investments and should be provided as free public goods to all. This would make the superstar phenomenon disappear, and the effects of digital innovation would simply show up as productivity increases.[5]

We live in a brave new world that is increasingly based on information. Because the information economy is different from the traditional economy, antitrust policy should be revamped to reflect that. Instead of worrying about the economy being eaten up by these gigantic monopolies, policymakers need to focus on the question ‘What specific actions can we pursue to make the economy more competitive and efficient?’

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