Consumers still seem to believe that identity theft is something that happens to other people, a new survey shows, even though more than one in 10 people has been a victim. This blasé attitude is reflected in the continued laxity in consumer security practices.
More than 30 percent of American consumers share their passwords with friends and nearly a quarter add "friends" on Facebook that they don't know, according to a survey of more than 500 consumers conducted by CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and information website.
And more than two-thirds of consumers use the same password for multiple websites.
The survey did find some bright spots amidst the gloom and doom, though. Nearly three-quarters of consumers know that losing a Social Security card has the potential to cause the most harm when it winds up in the hands of an identity thief, compared to losing a credit card or driver's license.
Almost two-thirds of respondents knew that a credit freeze prevents new accounts from being opened in their name, and more than three-quarters of consumers know to check their credit report to find out of someone has opened a new line of credit in their name.
But the good news regarding security awareness was balanced by some more sobering bad news, the survey found. Only a third of respondents knew a fraud alert does not prevent thieves from using existing credit cards or other accounts. Nearly a third of respondents are under the false impression that placing a fraud alert or credit freeze will negatively affect their credit score and another 18 percent think that placing a fraud alert or credit freeze will prevent them from accessing their own credit report.
"The threat of identity theft is real, yet consumers continue to behave as if the danger is only other people's problem," said Charles Tran, founder of CreditDonkey. "In reality, identity theft can strike any of us, and just like you shouldn't leave your front door unlocked, you should take basic precautions to protect yourself."