Zimbabwean non-uptake of protective point-of-sale behaviours: is this a risk homeostasis response?

Alfred Musarurwa, Karen Renaud, Tim Schürmann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


In a world which is increasingly relying on debit and credit cards to effect transactions, people are entering PINs in a wide range of situations and contexts. We all know we ought to shield PIN entry, and check for skimmers if we are using magnetic stripe cards. Yet previous studies have found that a minority of card users shield their PINs at Points of Sale (PoS). Previous studies into the incidence of PIN shielding have taken place in Europe, with stable currencies and relative wealth.

Zimbabwe, in 2019, presented us with a unique opportunity to carry out a replication study that is essentially a "natural experiment" i.e. we can study behaviours in interesting contexts which happen by chance, not by design. The context of interest is one where the country's currency is devaluing steeply, and creating a great deal of uncertainty and hardship. This occurred because Zimbabwe introduced a number of currency reforms in a short period of time. Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) suggests that people engage in a calculus based on their threat and coping appraisals. The devaluing currency ought to heighten threat appraisals (loss being much harder to bear) and the protective action's cost is relatively low (using a hand to shield a PIN). We ought, therefore, to see a higher incidence of protective behaviours in Zimbabwe.

Our observation and interview study surprisingly found lower levels of PIN shielding at Points of Sale (PoS) than in previous European studies. We also found that those participants who did not take protective behaviours tended to know how to recover from card fraud.

The low incidence we observed contradicted our PMT-based predictions. A possible explanation is that we are observing a risk homeostasis response, which suggests that having a "safety net" (being able to get your money back) might make people decide not to make the effort to take protective actions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2020 35th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Automated Software Engineering Workshops
Subtitle of host publicationASEW 2020: proceedings
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781450381284
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2020
Event35th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Automated Software Engineering Workshops - Virtual event
Duration: 22 Sep 202025 Sep 2020
Conference number: 35th


Conference35th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Automated Software Engineering Workshops
Abbreviated titleASEW 2020

Cite this