At this point in time, it seems unlikely an average American consumer remains unscathed by one of countless mega data breaches. Yet, a survey by Lexington Law shows 56% of Americans failed to use the many options available to verify their involvement in a data breach. Considering some of the mega data breaches over the past few years–think Equifax, Yahoo, Target, Uber, Home Depot, and many more, it’s wiser to assume your data has been involved in at least one breach, be it big or small. Yet data shows most consumers don’t know how to follow-up after a data breach, leaving them with fingers crossed and hoping for the best.
Since everyone is at risk of being caught-up in a data breach, Lexington Law’s survey shows interesting results, mainly that consumers prefer to stick their heads in the sand after a publicized breach. In 2017, over 1,579 data breaches happened in the U.S., resulting in four data breaches per day throughout the year. In response, only 20% of Americans checked to find out if they were involved in a breach. Even more confounding are the numbers within different age groups. The 18-24 year old bracket exposed this group as the worst data breaches offenders–69% have never checked if they were involved in a breach. Surprisingly, only 46% of the 55+ age group never followed up on breach involvement, showing they are statistically savvier and more serious bout data breaches. The big picture though, shows that no matter how many data breaches happen, most Americans see fit to ignore them.
Lexington Law’s study revealed 66% of users don’t know what to do or where to go in the case of a data breach. While the ongoing debate over data security and who exactly is responsible for it continues, the burden currently falls onto users themselves. Knowing that any bit of stolen information can be used for extensive identity theft, reviewing user options in light of a data breach is time well spent. The following tips can help you find out if your information has been accessed without your authorization.
- Go to HaveIBeenPwned.com to check if your email address has been stolen. If so, change your passwords and be sure to know how to spot phishing.
- Changing passwords and other login information is essential to avoid further identity damage. Use complex passwords that include letters, numbers, and special characters. Also make sure each account has a unique password.
- Use two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) whenever available, as it adds another layer of security when logging in to an account.
- Regularly check credit reports, like our SavvyMoney free credit monitoring tool for any irregularities. Even the most trivial of suspicions need to be explored. Each person in the U.S. with credit can get a free report from each of the three major bureaus every year at annualcreditreport.com.
- If you find that you have had any of your personal or sensitive data accessed in any type of breach, consider freezing your credit reports. It is now free to freeze and unfreeze them. Just be sure to understand how that might affect you before doing it.
- Keep aware that all types of phishing can steal data. Email phishing, smishing (text phishing), and vishing (phone call phishing) are hacker favorites and any stolen data helps cast a wider net for identity theft.
Time and again, consumers are reminded that businesses, for whatever reason, don’t seem to be able to properly secure their data. That conclusion alone means that data safety lands directly on the consumer. And for all of the data breaches not big enough to make the news, it’s wise to assume that at some point, your data was compromised in a breach.