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One-third of online customer data could be fake, says Wilmington Millennium

27th April 2017 • Notebook

A study by Wilmington Millennium has revealed that up to a third of customer data captured via web forms and stored in customer databases could be fake.

The research found that 23% of internet users regularly provide organisations with false information about themselves to curb any follow up marketing activity. This rises to almost one in three (32%) amongst people that use the internet in a B2B capacity.

As increasing numbers of organisations demand personal data in exchange for free content or deals, internet users are responding by using fake names, made up email addresses and bogus telephone numbers to ensure they are not contacted in the future. The most common practices were found to be:

  • Providing a dummy account – a live email address that has been set up purely for signing up to organisations of little interest
  • Giving the name of a friend, family member or colleague along with a made-up email address relating to that name
  • Using the name of a famous person and a made-up email address relating to that name e.g. brad.pitt@gmail.com
  • Making up a name and email address
  • Deliberately misspelling an actual email address e.g. john.doe@fmail.com
  • Changing one or two digits of the actual telephone number
  • Making up a telephone number
  • Altering the postal address e.g. house number or street name
  • Making up a postal address

The study revealed that internet users were most likely to provide a dummy address or fake name and email address. Postal addresses were the least likely to be falsified with only three per cent admitting to purposefully providing incorrect postal information.

The most at risk sectors were revealed to be business to business organisations, media companies (e.g. newspapers, magazines, streaming services), voucher sites, travel companies, comparison sites, data providers (such as house price aggregators) and retailers. Financial services, government and charities were the least affected sectors.

“This research provides both good news and bad news,” said Karen Pritchard, Product Director, Wilmington Millennium. “The bad news is that organisations are spending money on storing, maintaining and processing fake data. The worse news is that the amount of fake data being captured online is likely to increase following the introduction of GDPR once the opt-in clause comes into force.

“On the other hand, for the direct mail industry it provides further evidence of the effectiveness of the channel. Consumers are least likely to provide false information relating to their postal addresses suggesting that they are more trusting of organisations wanting to forge relationships through the mail.”

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