Friday, July 7, 2017

Thrifty Thinking: Identity Theft Survey Results

A national survey by Experian reveals that America’s collective guard down, and consumers feel they are at a disadvantage when it comes to identity theft.

Among the new data –

·         84% acknowledge being concerned about the security of personal information online, yet nearly two-thirds (64 percent) agree it’s “too much of a hassle to constantly worry about securing personal information online.”
·         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.”
·         A significant majority of respondents (72 percent) think thieves are only interested in “wealthy people’s identities.”

I had a chance to interview Michael Brummer, VP of Identity Protection at Experian, to learn more.

Why is it so easy to dismiss credit fraud concerns?
Many consumers rely on their credit card company to alert them of possible fraud and dismiss the charges, if fraud is alleged and/or proven. This gives them a false sense of security. If you are a victim of credit fraud, more fraud may happen in the future because the criminal has your personal information. They can commit more harm than charging up your card as personal information can be used to access additional financial accounts or get medical services in your name, for example.

Why are all consumers at risk, not just the wealthy?
It doesn’t matter how much money you have, everyone is at risk because personal information can be used in a number of ways to benefit the criminal whether it’s monetarily, via goods obtained, or even to cause reputational harm. Most consumers have lines of credit and financial accounts, which are desirable to thieves.

How can people protect their identity?
No matter where you are, it is important to be aware of the potential for identity theft. Here are some tips for protecting your personal information while at home, at work, on devices and while traveling:

  • At home:
    • Use a home safe to store all sensitive or personally identifiable information.
    • Use a shredder to dispose of all important documents, such as utility bills and credit card statements.
    • Set strong passwords, not just for online accounts, but also for home security systems, computer logins and safes.
    • Don’t overshare on social media. Limit who can access your information and never share information that could help fraudsters easily guess your security questions or passwords.
  • At work:        
    • Store personal items, such as phones and wallets, in secure locations.
    • Avoid copying or scanning personal documents.
    • Never leave your work computer unattended or unlocked.
  • On devices:
    • Add passwords to access your laptop and don’t use automatic login features that save your usernames and passwords.
    • Add multi-factor authentication to accounts, whenever possible.
    • Install anti-virus software on your computer and mobile devices.
    • Conduct transactions or enter personal information on secure sites, denoted by, https://.
    • Don’t get phished: never open emails, attachments or links, either in email or on social platforms, from unknown senders or even from people you appear to know until you verify their identity.
  • During travel:
    • Be wary of public Wi-Fi networks. Don’t ever use a public network for any personal or financial transactions.
    • In general, travel with only the most necessary personal data items: one or two credit cards at most, no personal checks and a passport only for international travel.

If someone has had their identity compromised, what steps do they need to take?

  • File a police report and report it with the Federal Trade Commission at
  • Contact one of the three national credit bureaus such as Experian to place a 90-day or 7 year fraud alert on your credit report.  This will alert lenders that you have been a victim of identity theft. If someone tries to open a line of credit in your name, they are required to contact you via phone to confirm your identity. Report it with one credit bureau and they will contact the other two bureaus to add the alert to their reports.
  • Sign up for identity theft or credit monitoring services such as Experian’s IdentityWorks product to detect any unusual activity as well as to get help to resolve fraud. The quicker you can identify and address the problem, the better.
  • Change your passwords on all of your accounts and enable, if offered, two step authentication.
  • Contact your credit card companies to request new cards.  Continue to monitor your accounts until you get your new cards.

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