News of data breaches and the risks of identity theft and fraud continue to grow but consumers’ vigilance and awareness haven’t kept pace.
A national survey by Experian, a leading global information services company, revealed that not only is America’s collective guard down, but people feel they are at a disadvantage when it comes to identity theft.
The survey results coincide with Experian’s national launch of IdentityWorksSM, a comprehensive set of identity theft protection products offering consumers a powerful and user-friendly array of features, including Experian CreditLock and extensive dark web monitoring.
(Learn More, courtesy of Experian and YouTube)
IdentityWorks helps consumers recognize potential identity fraud and respond to it, arming them with credit monitoring and alerts, plus credit reports and scores which are often the first indicators of identity theft and fraud.
This new product detects when a consumer’s personal information is actively marketed on the web or abused in noncredit transactions & extends well beyond credit information to include:
- Dark web monitoring and alerts, and
- Noncredit transaction monitoring
- Bank account
- Social Security number
- Change of address, etc.
IdentityWorks also includes Experian CreditLock, giving consumers real-time access control to their Experian credit file.
In addition to the expertise and assistance of fraud resolution specialists, the product also provides the peace of mind of up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.
Most Americans are unwitting accomplices to their own identity theft.
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% of respondents acknowledge being concerned about the security of personal information online, nearly two-thirds (64%) 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%), and nearly half (48%) 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%) believe the risk of identity theft goes away over time, and more than half (52%) 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%), and nearly 1 in 10 respondents believe they aren’t at risk because “my credit is bad/I don’t have enough money.”
“Consumers seem to be tuning out rather than tuning in,” said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of identity protection at Experian.
“Nothing replaces an individual’s active role in identity protection, but there are products — like Experian’s new IdentityWorks — that help consumers increase their awareness and provide tools enabling quick response to potential fraud.
It becomes less of a burden when consumers set up alerts for their credit cards and bank accounts, as well as alerts to flag credit report changes.”
In 2016, over 15 million Americans were victims of identity theft, up 16% from the previous year.
“Understanding the risks, being aware of the dark web, and researching what can help monitor and mitigate fraud aren’t optional these days,” added Bruemmer.
“Unfortunately, the survey suggests consumers don’t consider these necessities a priority, which makes life easier for fraudsters.”
Key research findings
- Only half (49%) of respondents feel they are likely to become a victim of identity theft; of those, 57% have house hold income of $100,00 or more and 45% have house hold income of less than $50,000.
- A significant majority of respondents (72%) 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%).
- Bankcard monitoring and credit report monitoring were rated highest as “helpful” when it comes to identity theft (58% and 55%, respectively).
- Identity theft is familiar to most, with 52% of respondents having been victims or knowing someone who has.
- Identity theft victims acknowledged negative impacts to short- and long-term financial goals (37% and 27%, respectively).
- Of those victimized by identity theft while traveling, 55% stated it took from weeks to more than a year to resolve issues related to identity fraud.
For information regarding identity protection and dealing with fraud, as well as more details on this survey, visit the Experian Credit Education blog.
Consider enrolling in a dark web and credit monitoring product such as Experian IdentityWorks, which can help better track and manage your credit with mobile alerts, lock your Experian credit file with Experian CreditLock, and help mitigate the damage from fraud with access to fraud resolution specialists and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.
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 like Experian IdentityWorks to help monitor your financial accounts and credit report.
- Experian IdentityWorks provides dark web monitoring to identify if personal information is exposed in illegal markets, a variety of alerts to warn of potential identity fraud and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance insurance for peace of mind.
- 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).