24 percent of Americans believe credit card companies are primarily responsible for data security assurance.

Fewer concerned about identity theft, despite growth in online buying

By: James Abbey, December 7, 2015

This past Cyber Monday was a shopping day that featured a flurry of Internet activity. Overall, more than $3 billion of digital sales were racked up on the first weekday following the Thanksgiving holiday, making it the most highly trafficked day for online spending ever, according to a recent survey.

Yet despite the growth in data breaches and identity theft – prompting many people to inquire about credit repair services – consumers aren’t too concerned about the potential of being financially compromised after a hack attack, a new poll reveals.

“54 percent of consumers are concerned about identity theft, down from 63 percent last year.”

More than half – 54 percent – of Americans say they have noticed more data breaches in 2015 than there were in 2014, the year some Internet security officials described as the “Year of the Hack.” Nevertheless, these same consumers aren’t as worried about being victimized themselves, credit agency TransUnion found. Approximately 52 percent said it caused them anxiety, down from nearly two-thirds – 63 percent – last year.

Ken Chaplin, TransUnion senior vice president, noted that online buyers are at risk of being lulled into a false sense of security.

“The drop in consumer fear of security breaches is not reflective of the security environment today,” Chaplin explained. “Data breaches are inevitable and most consumers are vulnerable to identity theft, so it’s crucial that they remain vigilant and take steps to mitigate their risk, especially during the holidays.”

While consumers recognize that financial institutions and retailers have an obligation to protect their customers from identity thieves, they point to themselves as the ones who are most responsible for their financial defenses. More than 1 in 3 – 36 percent – said that they considered financial security to be a personal accountability issue, with just under 1 in 4 saying it was the onus of credit card companies. Approximately 17 percent said retailers should be at the helm to keep patrons protected.

The following are a few ways to make sure your personal data is not jeopardized when conducting online transactions:

Be password protected

“Good password strategy is using letters, symbols and case-sensitive characters.”

Multi-charactered passwords are the best kind to use, because they’re harder for thieves to crack. Fortunately, more online accounts require that users mix up the letters, numbers and symbols before subscribing to a service.

Enable mobile phone security
As an extra layer of protection, smartphone developers like Apple and Samsung have features that require users to enter a code to gain access. Make sure that this is enabled, especially when conducting mobile-based transactions in public.

Check credit statements
Online banking has made verifying financial information available from anywhere. Get into the habit of checking credit card statements, savings accounts and checking accounts to see if there’s any activity that seems foreign. Credit card companies have ramped up their defenses and will often contact users directly after an unusual purchase has been made, or one that raises red flags.

Ask about credit repair
Identity theft can ruin credit profiles for years, especially if the fraudulent charges are not caught early. Bad credit can severely restrict your financial freedoms, making it harder to get a low interest rate on a mortgage estimate, for example, or refinance. Do some homework about the best credit repair service in your area. Ask friends to see what experience they’ve had.