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Business

Data breaches don’t alter habits, poll shows

A data theft at Target Corp. could compromise the personal information of up to 70 million customers.

2011 file/Associated Press

A data theft at Target Corp. could compromise the personal information of up to 70 million customers.

NEW YORK — American shoppers say they are very concerned about the safety of their personal information following a massive security breach at Target, but many aren’t taking steps to ensure their data are more secure, an Associated Press-GfK Poll shows.

The poll finds a striking contradiction: Americans say they fear becoming victims of theft after the breach, which compromised 40 million credit and debit cards and personal information of up to 70 million customers. Yet they are apathetic about trying to protect their data.

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In the survey, nearly half of respondents said they are extremely concerned about their personal data when shopping in stores since the breach. Sixty-one percent said they have deep worries when spending online, while 62 percent are very concerned when they buy on their mobile phones.

But just 37 percent have tried to use cash for purchases rather than pay with plastic in response to data thefts such as the one at Target, while only 41 percent have checked their credit reports. And even fewer have changed their online passwords at retailers’ websites, requested new credit or debit card numbers, or signed up for a credit-monitoring service.

The poll offers insight into the effects big data breaches can have on consumers’ behavior. There have been worries that shoppers would dramatically change their habits since December, when Target announced the breach that could wind up being the largest in US history. Weeks later, those concerns were elevated when the luxury retailer Neiman Marcus disclosed that it, too, was the victim of a breach that may have compromised 1.1 million debit and credit cards.

But security experts say the results show that Americans have come to expect that security theft is a possibility when they use their credit or debit cards or provide retailers with personal information.

‘‘They . . . just chalk it up to . . . ‘It’s part of life,’’’ said Cameron Camp, a security researcher at global security firm ESET.

Experts also say the results show another expectation: While nearly 4 out of 10 say they have been victimized by personal data theft, most expect credit card firms, banks, or retailers to take responsibility when that happens.

The poll was conducted Jan. 17 through Tuesday and involved interviews with 1,060 adults. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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