Consumers find balance between cyberspace risks and benefits

New survey from Experian reveals that people understand the hazards but don't plan to stop using their gadgets anytime soon

Jan 28, 2016, 06:00 ET from Experian

COSTA MESA, Calif., Jan. 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Data Privacy Day is a good reminder for consumers to take steps to protect their privacy online and practice good security habits. Experian® surveyed consumers nationally on topics related to cybersecurity and their use of the Internet and mobile devices. The survey found that consumers appreciate how much technology has improved their lives, but the risk of their personal information being exposed certainly is on their minds.

Most consumers (83 percent of survey respondents) agree that technology has enhanced their daily life in areas such as connecting with the people they care about (51 percent) and gaining access to knowledge or education (50 percent). Thirty percent of surveyed consumers say technology helps their financial status, and slightly more (33 percent) say it allows them to be more engaged with the products they use. They also would be even more connected, if possible, than they are today (80 percent).

While using technology, many people are not managing their privacy and understand identity theft is a risk. Only 36 percent of survey respondents review privacy policies when notified of changes by institutions they do business with, and just 28 percent review privacy policies of mobile apps before downloading them. Ninety-three percent feel identity theft is a growing problem, while 91 percent believe that people should be more concerned about the issue. Online activities that generate the most concern include making an online purchase (73 percent), using public Wi-Fi (69 percent) and accessing online accounts (69 percent).

"While this day is a good reminder to consumers to be vigilant about their personal information, they need to protect themselves year-round," said Michael Bruemmer, vice president, consumer protection, at Experian. "There is always a risk of consumers' personal information being exposed or shared in ways they aren't aware of if they don't read the policies, but by practicing good security habits they can enjoy the benefits of technology without anxiety."

Consumers are vigilant while online
Most respondents are concerned they will fall victim to identity theft in the future (71 percent), resulting in a generally proactive approach to protecting personal information. In fact, almost 50 percent of survey respondents say they are taking more precautions compared with last year. Ninety-one percent take steps to secure physical information, such as shredding documents, while also securing digital information (using passwords and antivirus software). Many consumers also make sure to check their credit report (33 percent) and bank account statements (76 percent) at least once per month.

There's still room for consumers to be safer
Though many consumers are practicing good security habits, some aren't:

  • More than 50 percent do not check to see if a Website is secure
  • Fifty percent do not have all of their Web-enabled devices password-protected because it is a hassle to enter a password (30 percent) or they do not feel it is necessary (25 percent)
  • Fifty-five percent do not close the Web browser when they are finished using an online account
  • Additionally, 15 percent keep a written record of passwords and PINs in their purse or wallet or on a mobile device or computer

Securing your identity in the digital age

  • Change passwords regularly
  • Avoid sharing personally identifying information, such as your full birth date, on social networks
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi hot spots, which make it easy for thieves to hack into the information stored on your mobile devices
  • Password-protect your phone since it provides access to sensitive information and accounts
  • Enable remote location and wiping software on your phone, allowing you to track it and wipe all data if it's lost or stolen
  • Review credit reports regularly and watch for signs of fraud
  • Consider enrolling in identity theft protection monitoring and take action if you receive alerts that your identity could be compromised

For additional information on how to protect your identity, please visit http://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/2015/06/24/infographic-identity-protection-at-home-1-of-4/

About the survey
The online survey was conducted by Edelman Berland on behalf of Experian from Sept. 14 to 18, 2015, among 1,002 adults ages 18 and older who reside in the United States. This online survey is not based on a probability sample; therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact ann@pitchpublicrelations.com.

About Experian Consumer Services
The Experian Consumer Services division provides credit monitoring and other informational products, such as identity protection, to millions of consumers via the Internet. The organization enables consumers to monitor their credit reports online, check their FICO® Scores and protect against identity theft. Its products include Experian Credit TrackerSM and ProtectMyID.

Experian Consumer Services has established integrated, cobranded relationships with leading online financial destinations that provide consumers with a broad range of comprehensive online financial products and information essential to managing one's financial life. For more information, visit http://www.experian.com.

About Experian
We are the leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to our clients around the world. We help businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision making.

We also help people to check their credit report and credit score, and protect against identity theft. In 2015, we were named by Forbes magazine as one of the "World's Most Innovative Companies."

We employ approximately 17,000 people in 37 countries and our corporate headquarters are in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and São Paulo, Brazil.

Experian plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Total revenue for the year ended March 31, 2015, was US$4.8 billion.

To find out more about our company, please visit http://www.experianplc.com or watch our documentary, "Inside Experian."

Experian and the Experian marks used herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of Experian Information Solutions, Inc. Other product and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.

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SOURCE Experian