Most Americans Are Victims of a Data Breach

Most Americans Are Victims of a Data Breach

January 30, 2017         Written By Bill Hardekopf

The majority of Americans (64%) have personally experienced a major data breach, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Nearly half (49%) feel as if their personal information is less secure than it was five years ago.

Those impacted by data breaches have experienced the following:

  • Fraudulent credit card charges (41%)
  • Received notices that their sensitive information, such as account numbers, had been compromised (35%)
  • Someone took over their email account (16%) or social media account (13%)
  • Received notice that their Social Security number had been compromised (15%)
  • Someone attempted to get a credit card or take out a loan in their name (14%)
  • Someone impersonated them to file a fraudulent tax return (6%)

Pew surveyed 1,040 U.S. adults and found many Americans mistrust the institutions tasked with keeping their personal data safe. According to the research, 28% of Americans are “not confident at all” that the federal government can keep their personal information secure, while 24% of social media users lack confidence that these sites protect their data. Only 12% of Americans and 9% of social media users have a very high level of confidence that these entities keep their information safe.

While many consumers do not trust businesses to protect their information, they are also failing to follow the best practices for digital security in their personal lives. Passwords are a major issue. Cybersecurity experts recommend password management software, but only 12% of Internet users say they use this type of software, and only 3% use this as their primary password technique. Instead, 65% say they memorize their password, and 18% write their passwords down on paper.

Other problematic behavior includes:

  • 41% have shared their password with a friend or family member
  • 39% use the same, or similar, passwords for many different accounts
  • 25% use less secure passwords because they are easier to remember

Many Americans are also not taking mobile security seriously. 28% of smartphone users do not protect their device with a screen lock or other security feature, and nearly 10% never install the updates to their phone’s apps or operating system. Additionally, 54% use potentially insecure wi-fi networks, and almost 20% use these types of networks to perform sensitive activities, including e-commerce or online banking.

However, there is some good news. Over half (52%) use a two-step authentication on some of their online accounts, and many do use different passwords for each of their accounts.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of January 30, 2017. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.


About Bill Hardekopf

Bill Hardekopf is the CEO of and covers the credit card industry from all perspectives. Bill has been involved with personal finance for over 15 years. He is a frequent contributor to Forbes, The Street and The Christian Science Monitor.
View all posts by Bill Hardekopf
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