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What Americans Would Do To Protect Their Identities

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Following the massive Equifax hack of 2017, many people believe the credit bureaus have shown that they can't protect people's identities. It's up to us.

What would you do to protect it yourself? MoneyTips recently posed Americans with a few options to see just how far we're willing to go.

Using weighted averages, more than one-fifth asserted that they would "Stop using public WiFi." Surprisingly, 15.5 percent said that they would "Stop using social media". Even more shocking, over 6 percent said that they would be willing to move to North Korea! That's more than the number of people who would give up their smartphone. But over half said wouldn't take any of these steps to protect their identity.

When it comes to reducing your risk of identity theft, "Limiting use of public WiFi or using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt communications done through public WiFi is a good choice," says Professor Steve Weisman, who teaches White Collar Crime at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

But Greg Scott, an IT professional and identity theft victim, believes our personal information is already available. "The problem here is, other than moving to North Korea, none of those choices are much help in guarding against identity theft. And anyone who seriously wants to move to North Korea has bigger problems. The uncomfortable truth is, our private information is already out there and up for sale, and whether we have a smartphone or use social media or public WiFi is irrelevant."

Men were more likely than women to stop using social media (18.2 percent to 13.2 percent). They were also more than three times more likely to move to North Korea.

The older the respondent, the more likely they were to give up social media. Only 1-in-12 of the youngest group, 18-24 years old, would be willing to make that sacrifice, compared to more than 1-in-5 of the eldest.

"Social media doesn't have to be abandoned, but people should be much more judicious about the personal information they post on social media that can be used to make them victims of identity theft. For instance, everyone does not have to know your birthday," said Weisman.

It seems peculiar that there aren't better ways to protect our data from identity thieves. Nearly 80 percent of those surveys said that there should be better ways to protect your identity.

It's so hard because the Internet adopted standards a generation ago that were never designed to scale to today's use," explains Scott, author of Bullseye Breach, a novel based on a massive identity theft. "We have plenty of Internet safety technology, but much of it is either less convenient to use, or incompatible with what's in place today, and so far, we're choosing convenience over safety. As for the credit bureaus not really trying... we need to remember that consumers are not credit bureau customers, we're raw material. Credit bureaus are not accountable to consumers, they're accountable to creditors."

The fight against identity theft can be won though.  Be sure to check out MoneyTips' and Benzinga's personal finance resources to learn how.

Related Links:

Your Rights As An Identity Theft Victim

Video: 5 Ways To Prevent Identity Theft

The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.

Posted-In: contributor contributors identity theftPersonal Finance

 

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