Not terrorism. Not nuclear war. Not Donald Trump. Not even mugging alone on a dark city street.
Americans’ worst fear now is cybercrime, as in being the victim of.
Nearly three-in-four Americans cite that as their worst fear these days. Not too far behind is a cousin concern, identity theft.
A new Gallup poll finds that 71 percent “frequently or occasionally fear that computer hackers will access their personal, credit card or financial information.”
Another 67 percent say they worry that often about identity theft, which leaves a trail of personal documentary wreckage that can take weeks or months to repair and recover. The identity fear is down slightly from the average of recent years. The cybercrime one is up slightly.
No wonder, actually given the numerous news stories about recent high-profile hackings — at Yahoo, Equifax, the Chinese hacking into federal computers to steal the complete personnel and background files on 21 million Americans, North Korean hackers silently shifting hundreds of millions of dollars from a Bangladesh government account, foreigner agents surveying online the inner workings of the U.S. power grid.
Psychologically, invisible fears — the ones you can’t see that play off your vulnerable imagination — are usually the starkest, from monsters hiding in childhood shadows to radiation leaks to hungry sharks lurking beneath the water’s surface.
Gallup has been surveying American fears for nearly two decades. When it added identity theft in 2010, that moved quickly to the top. And when it added cybercrimes last year, that instantly shot to the top concern.
The recent polls have found a dramatic shift in American fears from physical safety to cyber fears. Last year this Gallup Poll found, for instance, fear of walking alone at night fell to a 52-year low.
After the high online fears, the largest traditional crime fear is a home burglary in your absence (at 40 percent), having a car stolen or burglarized (37 percent), having a child harmed at school (32 percent) or being the victim of a mugging (25 percent) or terrorism (24 percent).
Being the victim of a hate crime, attacked while in your car or burglarized at home in your presence all come in at 22 percent.
Being sexually assaulted is 20 percent while fearing murder is only 17 percent.
The lowest fear reported by the 1,019 surveyed by phone was being killed or assaulted by a co-worker at seven percent, the same level as last year. Two crime fears — of terrorism and car theft — have recently fallen below the historical average.