Identify theft is on the rise and consumers are not doing as much as they can to preventing it from happening, according to a new study.
Fraudulent charges made to credit and debit cards are the most common form of identity theft, according to an AARP report. But taking simple precautions like checking credit reports and shredding personal documents could help curb the problem.
Over half (54%) of respondents reported leaving wallets, ATM receipts, checkbooks, computers, or pay stubs in their cars when parked, leaving their information accessible to thieves. And 21% of respondents are not shredding their important documents. Both are no-no’s.
People are also making themselves vulnerable to high-tech attacks. Over a third of respondents don’t monitor their credit card and bank accounts through online portals because they haven’t set up access, and that number goes up to 42% for people 50 and older.
Changing and alternating passwords is an effective way to thwart hackers, yet four in 10 Americans aren’t doing it and are using the same password on multiple accounts. For almost half of the respondents it’s been six months since they’ve changed the password to their online bank account.
Getting some help
Nearly half (52%) of people polled said they don’t check their credit report during the year, and just 17% said they check in with one of the credit bureaus on a regular basis to see if there are any problems.
Identity theft protection services like Lifelock, Identity Guard, or LegalShield, can help keep personal information safe but only 14% use them.
Jeff Bell, the CEO of LegalShield, had some additional tips for consumers on how to take their credit and banking security measures up a notch or two.
- Employ technology that enables encryption of mobile device if possible. If the device is encrypted, or at a minimum protected with a password or PIN, the risk of data loss is greatly reduced.
- With security questions, using the truthful answer isn’t always a good thing. For example, if the question is, “What high school did you attend?” then answer with a fictional high school. Doing this makes it highly unlikely that a hacker will guess the answer to your security questions.
- Use two-factor authentication. With this method, you use a password and then a uniquely created code that is generated and sent to either your email account or phone. You then provide that code as a second piece of identity authentication to gain access to the account.
The Identity Theft: Who’s at Risk? study was conducted by the AARP Fraud Watch Network and included 1,500 Americans who are 50 or older as well as 750 in the 18- to 49-year-old age range.