Here are some sobering statistics. According to the FTC, reports of fraud and identity theft in the U.S. rose to unprecedented highs in 2020. Identity theft involving government documents and benefits fraud climbed a scary 2,920% from the previous year.

It’s no wonder that fears over cybersecurity weigh heavily on the minds of many Americans; you might suspect that identity theft concerns are part of the reason why. Identity theft can compromise your credit, rack up credit card and medical bills, and as many saw during the pandemic, hijack government benefits.

A CivicScience survey finds that nearly one-quarter of 3,220 U.S. adults say they have been a victim of identity theft in the past. People ages 35 to 54 were the most likely to say they have had identifying information stolen.

More than one-third of people are highly concerned about their personal data being hacked into or stolen from companies they use. That indicates the risk is real for businesses not to make mistakes when it comes to protecting sensitive customer data. In other words, identity theft is bad for business.

Identity Theft Protection and Monitoring Services

How are people combating the threat of identity theft? Dozens of online identity protection and monitoring services are now available, such as Experian IdentityWorks, Aura Identity Guard, and Norton LifeLock. For a yearly price or subscription, these kinds of services monitor your credit activity and some will help you restore your identity if your info is compromised.

The survey finds that a total of 36% of adults say they have used identity theft protection software, while only one-quarter say they actually liked it. A healthy number of people plan to use protection software, while one-third aren’t interested.

While 84% of U.S. adults have heard of identity protection software, brand name awareness is extremely low. NortonLifeLock is among the most recognizable and popular protection services (13% have used it and liked it). But the second-most popular is Experian IdentityWorks which only 5% of U.S. adults have used and liked.

Looking at the user base, adults 35 and up are much more likely to use and like protection software. On the other hand, 18- to 34-year-olds have similar adoption rates but are significantly more likely to say they don’t like the software. However, intent to use identity protection software is highest among 18- to 24-year-olds – nearly 30% are planning to use it. Overall adoption and interest is highest among young adults.

Among other protective measures, the survey reveals that the majority of respondents shred paper documents with identifying data in order to get rid of them, as opposed to throwing away or recycling them. 

It’s uncertain what the impact is of identity theft protection services and software at this point, but we’ll be keeping an eye on these trends and adoption rates moving forward.