Following 2017’s massive Equifax data breach, which exposed the sensitive personal information of 147.9 million people, Americans are increasingly recognizing the vulnerability of their personal data online as they search for new ways to protect themselves. A year later, a new study shows their fears about the safety of their financial information persist.
According to an August 2018 survey by NerdWallet and The Harris Poll, roughly 7 in 10 (71%) Americans say they’ve become increasingly worried about the security of their financial information online over the past year, and more than 3 in 5 (61%) Americans don’t feel prepared to take action if their personal financial information is involved in a data breach online.
The study also uncovered growing concerns about online financial security as confidence in banks, credit bureaus and the federal government to protect financial information becomes lukewarm. About half (51%) of Americans say U.S. banks are doing enough to ensure the security of consumer finance information, 47% say major credit bureaus are doing enough and only 38% say the U.S. government is doing enough.
The bottomline: Americans (61%) feel unprepared to handle a situation in which their personal financial information is involved in an online data breach.
“Anxiety over financial privacy is a justified reaction to data breaches that make the news, but you don’t have to wait until you experience a breach personally to take steps to protect yourself,” says Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet. “There’s a range of steps all consumers can take, from being more watchful to freezing their credit, to stay safe.”
NerdWallet shared useful tips for consumers to protect their personal data online:
- Freeze your credit. Beginning Sept. 21, freezing and unfreezing your credit will be free through all three major credit bureaus.
- Set a fraud alert. Yearlong fraud alerts will also be free beginning Sept. 21.
- Check your credit report for errors and problems at least once annually. Credit freezes and fraud alerts only prevent new fraudulent accounts, so keep an eye on existing accounts.
- Monitor your credit score for unexplained changes.
- Review your monthly bank and credit card statements for fraudulent charges.
Read about the full survey at NerdWallet.