Americans who say they are extremely or very concerned about cyber threats have increased 20 percent since last year, from 46 percent in 2015 to 55 percent in 2016, according to TransUnion’s (NYSE: TRU) annual Cyber Security survey, released recently..
The TransUnion® survey polled 1,263 consumers ages 18 and older about their experiences with and perceptions of cyber threats in anticipation of National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October. Despite increasing fear, nearly half of respondents don’t take common protective measures, such as locking their phone with a password (45 percent) and changing their passwords frequently (51 percent).
The survey also found that males and females react differently to cyber threats. According to the data, 62 percent of men said they were concerned about their cyber security, compared to only 49 percent of women. However, women are more likely to take precautionary measures against cyber risks than men, with 74 percent of women reporting they regularly check their bank statements for fraudulent activity compared to only 67 percent of men.
Respondents reported feeling most susceptible to email hacking, with 40 percent ranking it as the greatest threat to their online security, followed by online credit card theft (38 percent) and cell phone theft (35 percent).
“Our survey reflects the growing fear among Americans about the threats to their personal and financial information. People are more vulnerable than ever to cyber threats and consumers must protect and closely monitor their information.”
Heather Battison, Vice President of TransUnion
In addition, 83 percent of consumers are extremely, very or somewhat concerned about identity theft, defined as the misuse of one’s personal information for another’s economic gain. And, the survey identified a significant gap between how consumers believe they will respond to identity theft and their actual behavior when victimized. While most consumers said they would take reactive protective measures if they experienced a breach, few actually did.
For example, 72 percent of consumers said they would report a breach to a bank or credit institution, but only 40 percent of respondents who said their identity had been stolen actually reported the violation. Similarly, 63 percent said they would implement a credit freeze or fraud alert on a breached account, but only 26 percent of victims actually did so. And while 62 percent of consumers plan to cancel a bank or credit card following a breach, only 36 percent did so in reality.
“Cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to steal your information,” said Battison. “At least 400,000 consumers called the TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department (FVAD) between January and June 2016, a number that may rise if protective measures aren’t taken. We’re here to help consumers navigate any fraud, but the best results come from taking proactive, preventive measures before a breach.”
To help safeguard against fraud, Battison offers the following tips:
- Password protect your phone: Cyber criminals can access your personal information, like photos, personal calls and banking applications, by installing applications on stolen phones. Use a password to protect your phone and create a barrier that makes it more difficult for others to access your information.
- Use caution when approaching near field communication (NFC) applications: People are increasingly using their phones to make purchases, opening the door for cyber criminals to steal data through third-party applications. Be cautious when using applications that use NFC technology – a set of close-range wireless communication standards – which allows data to be transferred between a smartphone and other devices such as through tap-to-pay methods at checkouts and other third-party payment applications.
- Avoid accessing sensitive information on public Wi-Fi networks: Accessing personal information on public Wi-Fi is an easy way for cyber thieves to steal your information. Never check your bank account or other sites with sensitive information while connected to a public network.
- Vary your account passwords: Using the same password across accounts can make it easier for cybercriminals to steal your information. Create unique PINs and passwords for your accounts that are a random mix of letters, numbers and special characters, which makes it harder for identity thieves to guess. Enable a password manager such as Dashlane to securely manage passwords, credit cards, IDs, and other important information.
For more information on how to protect yourself from identity theft, visit TransUnion’s website.
About the Survey: The online survey includes responses from 1,263 U.S. consumers aged 18 and older. The survey was conducted between August 19, 2016 and August 22, 2016.
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Source: TransUnion Press Release