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Over Three-Quarters of Consumers Fear Identity Theft

[Thursday, November 12th, 2015]

Having your identity stolen is more than just a pain in the neck—it’s something to be genuinely frightened of. A recent survey showed that over three quarters, or almost eight out of ten people, are scared of identity theft. Of those, 23% said they are “very frightened.”

Those fears aren’t baseless. Almost half of Americans (46%) have been identity theft victims themselves, or have known someone who was. That’s up 12% from 2008.

Not everyone is losing sleep over possible identity theft, however. One in five of those surveyed said they were “not at all worried” about having their identity stolen. The people least likely to be afraid were Millennials—those who are ages 18-29.

The most-worried group of folks was the 30- to 49-year-olds. But that didn’t mean they were taking appropriate cautions against having their identities stolen. Forty-two percent said they don’t check their credit reports on a regular basis, and 41% do banking and access other financial accounts via unsecured wireless networks.

“With news of a data hack nearly every week, consumers are doing themselves a disservice by not checking their credit reports regularly,” said a research analyst who worked on the study. “It’s one of the easiest and most important steps to take and is free.”

That’s becoming more and more true, as FICO now partners with many banks to offer free credit scores to folks on their monthly statements or online accounts. It used to be that getting an annual credit report was something you could only do once a year for free, and it didn’t come with a score. But now it’s relatively easy to find out your credit score for free.

How to protect yourself

If your credit isn’t good, that can be a sign of your worse fears realized: someone may be using your identity. Check all ofyour accounts and see if they’ve been paid recently and are in good standing. Order a full copy of your credit report and look to see if there are accounts you don’t recognize.

Identity thieves use any information they can get their hands on to open accounts in your name, steal your money, and charge things to your credit cards. If it happens to you, there are steps you can take to reverse the damage and get your money back—if you discover it quickly.

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