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Just 1 in 3 credit cardholders think their identity will be stolen in the future, according to a new report from CompareCards.com. That’s despite the fact that 21 percent of cardholders – including 32 percent of young millennials – said their credit or debit card had been used fraudulently in the past year.
That optimism was perhaps the most surprising takeaway from CompareCards.com new report on credit cardholders’ views around identity theft. About 1 in 5 cardholders said they had a credit or debit card used fraudulently in the past year, a year in which data breaches, skimming and credit card fraud were constantly in the headlines. However, despite all that, we found that Americans are surprisingly upbeat about what the future held for them when it comes to identity theft.
- Just 30% of credit cardholders think that their identity will be stolen in the future, even though 21% of credit cardholders said they had a credit or debit card used fraudulently in the past year.
- The younger you are, the more likely you are to say you had a card used fraudulently. (32% of young millennials – those between 22 and 29 years old — said they were victims vs. just 16% of baby boomers.)
- Those with household incomes over $100k were most likely to say that a card had been used fraudulently. (29% vs. less than 20% of those under $50k)
- Midwesterners are the least likely to believe their identity would be stolen, while Westerners are the most likely to believe so. Also among the most likely to believe they’d be victims of ID theft: Men, Gen Xers and those making $100k+.
- Half (50%) of those who had a card used fraudulently placed a fraud alert afterwards.
The bottom line: Optimism is great, but diligence is better
With the constant drumbeat of headlines about data breaches and credit card fraud and other types of identity theft, it would be easy to see how people would lean toward taking a dark view of the future. However, this survey shows that pessimism has yet to take hold, and that’s encouraging. It’s also dangerous, though, because optimism can breed complacency, and that’s what identity thieves take advantage of.
The truth is that identity theft is a forever problem. Social Security numbers, passwords and other private information for millions of Americans have already been compromised, and once it is out there, it’s out there for good. That’s why it is incredibly important for Americans to build identity theft protection into their regular financial routine.
- Check your credit report: If you don’t do this regularly, you’re not being diligent enough about ID theft. If you’ve never checked your report or you haven’t done it in a while, know that it has never been easier to do. Federal law entitles you to a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus once a year. You can get them at AnnualCreditReport.com. Once you’ve done that, sign up for free ongoing access to your TransUnion credit report and VantageScore credit score at LendingTree.com. Keeping an eye on your credit report is the best way to see if someone has stolen your identity to open new card accounts in your name.
- Check your online financial statements: You should review your online bank account and credit card account statements every week. It’s quick and easy to do, and it makes a difference. Simply review your latest transactions and make sure everything looks legitimate. (That includes even small purchases. Sometimes bad guys will make a tiny purchase, like a pack of gum, with a stolen credit card, just to test if it works.) If something doesn’t seem right, report it to your bank or credit card issuer right away..
You may also want to consider implementing a credit freeze, which prevents anyone, including you, from obtaining credit in your name, unless you choose to temporarily lift the freeze. (Learn more about it here.) Credit freezes are also free now, thanks to recent changes in federal law. It’s not perfect, however. For example, it doesn’t prevent someone from fraudulently using a credit card account that already exists. That’s why it’s so important to regularly review your credit reports and your online statements.
The truth is that it’s impossible to prevent all identity theft and credit card fraud. Bad guys are smart and resourceful and have billions of reasons to do everything they can to keep one step ahead of the good guys. That’s why I tend to take a more pessimistic view of the future than our survey respondents. I am hopeful that technology and other advancements will make a difference in the fight against identity theft in the future, but for now – and the foreseeable future – I’d recommend people mix a pound of diligence in with their ounce of optimism.
CompareCards by LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 2,851 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the general population. The survey was fielded Feb. 4-19, 2019, and the margin for error for all respondents is +/- 2.0%.