Data Breaches Nearly Double: Here’s How to Stay Safe

Whether you've fallen victim to data theft or simply want to avoid it, here is what you need to know.

One-quarter of Americans have fallen victim to data breaches over the past year

That’s more than twice the 11 percent of people who reported being victimized by data breaches the year prior, according to a survey of 1,100 U.S. adults that Harris Poll conducted in March for the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Ernie Almonte, chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, says in a press release:

The increase in data breaches affecting personal information has given consumers significant cause to be cautious about their activities, both online and off… Data breaches have the potential to seriously affect consumer finances and wreak havoc on their credit scores.

Twenty percent of respondents reported their credit scores were negatively affected.

Adults of various age brackets have been affected by data breaches, including 34 percent of those ages 55 to 64 and 22 percent of millennials.

Most consumers — 82 percent — have adjusted shopping habits to protect sensitive financial data, with 56 percent using cash or checks more often and 40 percent reducing their online presence, including their social media presence.

The AICPA also suggests several tips for preventing becoming a victim of data theft, including:

  • Ask what safeguards your bank and credit card companies offer that you can opt into, such as fraud alerts.
  • Don’t shop via a public Wi-Fi connection. It’s a riskier way to transmit personal data. “An unsecure connection means hackers may be able to gain access to any personal information you share with the retailer and use it to make unauthorized purchases,” the AICPA states.
  • Don’t allow a debit or credit card to leave your sight in stores and restaurants.
  • Don’t click on links in unsolicited or otherwise suspicious emails or on social media websites. “They may take you to sites that are trying to collect information for identity theft,” the AICPA states.

For more, check out “Fear Data Breaches and ID Theft? 10 Steps to Protect Yourself” and “Ask Stacy: Should I Pay for Identity Theft Protection and Credit Monitoring?

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