Are you making it easier for identity thieves?

News of data breaches and the risks of identity theft and fraud persist, but consumers’ vigilance and awareness haven’t kept pace. A national survey by Experian revealed that not only is America’s collective guard down, but people feel they are at a disadvantage when it comes to identity theft.

identity thieves

Concerned about the threat and the hassle

The survey makes clear that complexity, inconvenience and perceived odds of becoming an identity fraud victim have discouraged consumers from making identity protection best practices part of their daily lives.

While 84 percent of respondents acknowledge being concerned about the security of personal information online, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) agree it’s “too much of a hassle to constantly worry about securing personal information online.” The majority say staying on top of financial transactions is a challenge (53 percent), and nearly half (48 percent) don’t even check their credit reports regularly for errors or suspicious activity.

Significant misconceptions about identity theft and fraud

More concerning might be the misconceptions that exist regarding identity theft and fraud. A majority (56 percent) believe the risk of identity theft goes away over time, and more than half (52 percent) are convinced it’s not very likely they will become a victim of identity theft. Many think banks and credit card companies monitor their accounts, so they don’t have to worry about identity theft (53 percent), and nearly 1 in 10 respondents believe they aren’t at risk because “my credit is bad/I don’t have enough money.”

“Understanding the risks, being aware of the dark web, and researching what can help monitor and mitigate fraud aren’t optional these days. Unfortunately, the survey suggests consumers don’t consider these necessities a priority, which makes life easier for fraudsters,” said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of identity protection at Experian.

Key research findings

  • Only half (49 percent) of respondents feel they are likely to become a victim of identity theft; of those, 57 percent have house hold income of $100,00 or more and 45 percent have house hold income of less than $50,000.
  • A significant majority of respondents (72 percent) think thieves are only interested in “wealthy people’s identities.”
  • The number one perceived identity theft threat: data breaches (number two: phishing emails).
  • It’s not uncommon for people to search for themselves online to see if anyone else is using their identity (26 percent).
  • Bankcard monitoring and credit report monitoring were rated highest as “helpful” when it comes to identity theft (58 percent and 55 percent, respectively).
  • Identity theft is familiar to most, with 52 percent of respondents having been victims or knowing someone who has.
  • Identity theft victims acknowledged negative impacts to short- and long-term financial goals (37 percent and 27 percent, respectively).
  • Of those victimized by identity theft while traveling, 55 percent stated it took from weeks to more than a year to resolve issues related to identity fraud.

identity thieves

Tips to help monitor for fraud and protect personal information

  • Check your credit report for accuracy. You can get a free report from each credit bureau annually at annualcreditreport.com.
  • Consider an identity protection product to help monitor your financial accounts and credit report.
  • Password-protect your phone. Your phone provides access to sensitive information and accounts. Set a unique password to unlock the device, and enable remote finding and wiping software to track the phone or destroy the data if it’s lost or stolen.
  • Use a password manager to create strong passwords for online accounts, and change them regularly.
  • Don’t access financial information or shop online using public Wi-Fi or an unsecured network.
  • Be careful about what personal information you share online (e.g., social networks).