Public Wi-Fi and lack of passwords lead consumer risks

93 percent of respondents believe that identity theft is a growing problem yet are not doing enough to address the issue, according to a survey conducted by Edelman Berland.

Consumers overwhelmingly report taking steps to protect their physical and digital information, but 33 percent still do not feel confident that they are doing enough to protect their identities. In fact, 73 percent say they are concerned that they could be affected by identity theft in the future, and 90 percent note that people should be more concerned about identity theft.

Taking risks online:

  • Only 38 percent of those surveyed manage social-media privacy settings on an ongoing basis
  • Thirty-two percent report closing browsers without logging out of their online accounts
  • Fifty-three percent don’t check to see if a Website is secure before shopping online
  • Fifty-eight percent say they use public Wi-Fi once a month or more, but a quarter don’t use any form of protection, i.e., firewall or VPN
  • Sixty-six percent log on to personal accounts from public Wi-Fi, and 38 percent access bank or credit-card accounts on public Wi-Fi
  • Only 52 percent update their antimalware or antivirus software each year.

Not being smart when it comes to smartphones:

  • Three in 10 smartphones are not password protected, and 41 percent are not enabled for remote tracking and wiping
  • Only 22 percent of respondents report that they read mobile-app privacy statements before downloading them
  • A third of consumers (and 48 percent of millennials) say they feel comfortable sharing their passwords with others.

Startling findings and misconceptions:

  • Twenty-nine percent of respondents say they felt safe because thieves only want wealthy people’s identities
  • Thirty-two percent say they believe that their chances of getting their identity stolen are small, and 42 percent feel that it would be very difficult for someone to steal their identity
  • Forty-two percent feel that it’s too much of a hassle to worry constantly about securing their identity.

Securing your identity in the digital age:

  • Change passwords on a regular basis
  • Avoid sharing personally identifying information, such as your full birth date, on social networks
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi hotspots that make it easy for thieves to hack into the information stored on your mobile devices
  • Password-protect your phone since it provides access to sensitive information and accounts
  • Enable remote location and wiping software to track your phone if it’s lost or stolen, allowing to wipe all of the data from it
  • Review credit reports regularly, and watch for signs of fraud
  • Consider enrolling in identity-protection monitoring, and take action if you receive alerts that your identity could be compromised.

“Most people recognize that identity theft presents a problem that could affect them financially but don’t take steps to protect themselves,” said Becky Frost, senior manager of consumer education for Experian’s ProtectMyID. “Identity thieves use data as their commodity, selling it to the highest bidder, or for personal gain, so it’s important for consumers to protect their personal information.”

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