New research from Shred-it finds consumers are largely unaware of how to protect their personal information or respond to identity theft. 
 - Photo courtesy Shred-it

New research from Shred-it finds consumers are largely unaware of how to protect their personal information or respond to identity theft.

Photo courtesy Shred-it

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Despite almost half of U.S. consumers (49%) believing their security habits make them vulnerable to information fraud or identity theft, 51% admit to reusing passwords and PINs across multiple accounts such as email, computer logins, phone passcodes, and bank accounts. That is according to Shred-it’s Consumer Fraud Awareness Survey, which was conducted to expose consumer concerns, habits and knowledge of information security and fraud ahead of International Fraud Awareness Week, which begins Nov. 11.

Consumers are not only putting their digital security at risk, but their habits toward physical information security also make them vulnerable to fraud or identity theft, analysts said. While nearly two in 10 consumers (17%) are concerned that they could fall victim to a physical security breach, nearly three in 10 consumers (27%) admit they do not shred paper or physical documents containing sensitive information before throwing them away.

“The Consumer Fraud Awareness Survey demonstrates how today’s consumers are becoming increasingly vulnerable to fraud or identity theft due to lax information security habits,” said Monu Kalsi, vice president of Shred-it. “With International Fraud Awareness Week on the horizon, this is an excellent time for information security leaders to share critical tips and advice with consumers on how they can improve their security habits to ensure they’re better protected from a data breach.”

Although consumers may be inadvertently putting their own information security at risk, the study also found they don’t trust companies to keep their personal information safe. Forty-three percent of consumers believe the personal information they share with brands and companies today could be vulnerable to a security breach. With that, 40% say they would stop doing business with a brand or company if they previously suffered a security breach.

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • More than one-third of consumers (39%) have been a victim of fraud or identity theft.
  • Nearly three in 10 consumers (27%) admit that they do not know how to find out if they’ve become a victim of fraud or identity theft.
  • When asked how they found out they were a victim of fraud, 33% found out by monitoring their own accounts for suspicious activity, 29% were alerted by a business about a security breach of their information, and 24% discovered it by accident.
  • One in five consumers (20%) admit that if they became a victim of fraud, they would not know how to report and remediate it.
  • Nearly 30% of consumers store paper documents containing sensitive, personal information in a box, desk drawer or unlocked cabinet at home or work.
  • When it comes tax documents such as W2 and 1099 forms, consumers aren’t storing the documents for the recommended period of time before disposing of them. While 31% of consumers keep tax documents for seven years or more before disposing of them, 26% keep them for one to three years, 21% keep them for four to seven years and 13% keep them for less than one year.
  • Baby boomers have some of the safest information security habits, despite stereotypes suggesting otherwise. Baby boomers (47%) are the least likely to reuse passwords or PINs across multiple accounts, compared to millennials (55%) and Gen Zs (61%).
  • More than nine in 10 (91%) baby boomers closely monitor their financial account activity such as bank statements, credit reports, and credit card statements each week, compared to millennials (85%) and Gen Zs (86%).

To download the study in its entirety, click here.

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