Lack Of Passwords, Use Of Public Wi-Fi Lead Consumer Cyber Security Risks

Insurance & Consumer Tips
ID theft by Don Hankins
Photo copyright Don Hankins

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. The Automobile Club of Southern California wants consumers to be aware of the risks of cyber identity theft, revealed in a new survey from Experian’s ProtectMyID®.


The study, conducted by Edelman Berland, reveals areas where consumers’ identities are most at risk, including electronic devices and online accounts. The findings show that 93 percent of respondents believe that identity theft is a growing problem yet are not doing enough to address the issue.


The Auto Club, together with Experian, provides ProtectMyID Deluxe theft monitoring to members at a discounted rate. More information on the benefit is available at


“Most people recognize that identity theft presents a problem that could affect them financially but don’t take steps to protect themselves,” said Becky Frost, senior manager of consumer education for Experian’s ProtectMyID. “Identity thieves use data as their commodity, selling it to the highest bidder, or for personal gain, so it’s important for consumers to protect their personal information.”


John Straser, the Auto Club’s manager of the ProtectMyID member benefit, agreed. “Identity theft has grown exponentially in recent years with the proliferation of online shopping, as well as smartphone and tablet usage away from home,” he said. “The Auto Club urges consumers to learn how to protect themselves. Even if you use precautions while online, security breaches can happen. That’s why an identity theft monitoring service is so important.”


Consumer risks

Consumers overwhelmingly report taking steps to protect their physical and digital information, but 33 percent still do not feel confident that they are doing enough to protect their identities. In fact, 73 percent say they are concerned that they could be affected by identity theft in the future, and 90 percent note that people should be more concerned about identity theft.


Taking risks online

  • Only 38 percent of those surveyed manage social-media privacy settings on an ongoing basis
  • Thirty-two percent report closing browsers without logging out of their online accounts
  • Fifty-three percent don’t check to see if a Website is secure before shopping online
  • Fifty-eight percent say they use public Wi-Fi once a month or more, but a quarter don’t use any form of protection, i.e., firewall or VPN
  • Sixty-six percent log on to personal accounts from public Wi-Fi, and 38 percent access bank or credit-card accounts on public Wi-Fi
  • Only 52 percent update their antimalware or antivirus software each year


Not being smart when it comes to smartphones

  • Three in 10 smartphones are not password protected, and 41 percent are not enabled for remote tracking and wiping
  • Only 22 percent of respondents report that they read mobile-app privacy statements before downloading them
  • A third of consumers (and 48 percent of millennials) say they feel comfortable sharing their passwords with others


Startling findings and misconceptions

  • Twenty-nine percent of respondents say they felt safe because thieves only want wealthy people’s identities
  • Thirty-two percent say they believe that their chances of getting their identity stolen are small, and 42 percent feel that it would be very difficult for someone to steal their identity
  • Forty-two percent feel that it’s too much of a hassle to worry constantly about securing their identity


Securing your identity in the digital age

  • Change passwords on a regular basis
  • Avoid sharing personally identifying information, such as your full birth date, on social networks
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi hotspots that 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 to track your phone if it’s lost or stolen, allowing to wipe all of the data from it
  • Review credit reports regularly, and watch for signs of fraud
  • Consider enrolling in identity-protection monitoring, and take action if you receive alerts that your identity could be compromised