CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - Jun 26, 2014) - Identity theft is America's fastest-growing crime, yet the majority of adults in the U.S. aren't taking steps to protect themselves and outsmart thieves, according to a recent TransUnion survey.
The national survey of men and women revealed that 80 percent of adults worry about becoming a victim of identity theft. However, although most people understand the concept of identity theft, very few fully know what puts them at risk and how they can beat identity thieves at their own game.
More than half of adults check their credit score once a year or less, and the majority don't understand they can fall prey to identify theft everywhere, including in stores, online and through social media, according to the survey.
The risk of identity theft is not new and the basic strategies for doing it have not changed in decades, yet few people have taken steps to make their identity more secure. Last year alone, more than 13 million Americans fell victim to fraud from identity theft, an increase of about half a million people from the prior year, according to a recent report from Javelin Strategy & Research.
"From the time we're born, everyone in the world has their own identity -- and the risk of having it stolen can come at any moment during your life and even after death," said Julie Springer, vice president at TransUnion. "With a new victim falling prey to identity theft every two seconds, it's more important than ever to take protective measures."
Despite high awareness of identity theft following recent security breaches at Target, Michaels and P.F. Chang's, behaviors haven't changed. When comparing their perceived levels of risk, only 34 percent believe using their debit or credit card at a retail store puts them at risk while 60 percent believe online shopping puts them at risk. When in fact, the data breaches have proven that shopping at a retail store holds a significant amount of risk for fraud. Additionally, more than one-quarter of adults surveyed said posting to social sites has the least risk of them falling prey to identity theft.
"Identity theft is happening everywhere, especially on social media where people are posting even more personal information and reusing the same passwords," Springer said. "Simple changes like adjusting privacy settings and strengthening your password can help ward off cyber thieves."
Even after news of the recent security breaches spread across the U.S., only one in five adults have purchased or used an identity theft protection service. However, 79 percent of people surveyed agreed that these kinds of services would be somewhat or very effective.
Services like TransUnion's Instant Alerts or Credit Lock, which allows members to lock and unlock their credit from their mobile device, helps people rest assured that they're protecting their families' identities by blocking access to their credit reports and receiving notifications for new applications for credit in their name.
TransUnion, a leader in identity theft and protection and credit management, offers the following simple tips to prevent identity theft:
- Only carry essential documents with you. Don't carry extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport with you outside the house.
- Keep new checks out of the mail. When ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank instead of having them sent to your home. This makes it harder for your checks to be stolen, altered and cashed by identity thieves.
- Be careful when giving out personal information over the phone. Identity thieves may call, posing as banks or government agencies. Don't give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- Stay on top of your credit. Make sure your credit reports are accurate and that you sign up for a credit monitoring service, like TransUnion's Instant Alert which can alert you by email to changes in your credit report -- a helpful way to prevent identity theft.
- Follow your credit card billing cycles closely. Identity thieves can start by changing your billing address. Making sure you receive your credit card bill every month is an easy way to prevent identity theft.
- Create passwords or PIN numbers out of a random mix of letters and numbers. Doing so makes it harder for identity thieves to discover these codes, and makes it easier for you to prevent fraud.
For more information on how to better protect yourself from identity theft or to begin safeguarding yourself from identity thieves, visit www.TransUnion.com
About the Survey
The survey was conducted online by TransUnion Interactive between June 13, 2014 and June 16, 2014, and included responses from 506 American consumers who had children of college age or younger.
TransUnion Interactive, Inc. is a consumer subsidiary of TransUnion. As a global leader in credit and information management, TransUnion creates advantages for millions of people around the world by gathering, analyzing and delivering information. For businesses, TransUnion helps improve efficiency, manage risk, reduce costs and increase revenue by delivering comprehensive data and advanced analytics and decisioning. For consumers, TransUnion provides the tools, resources and education to help manage their credit health and achieve their financial goals. Through these and other efforts, TransUnion is working to build stronger economies worldwide. Founded in 1968 and headquartered in Chicago, TransUnion employs associates in more than 33 countries on five continents. www.transunion.com. Follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TransUnion.