The idea behind storing sensitive information online is that nothing should happen to the data locked behind a password and blanketed by encryption: it will stay where it is and remain private and protected. The reality is that most consumers transacting online don’t have much faith in cybersecurity. Almost the entire Gen Pop finds the state of cybersecurity troubling to some degree, and more than half are only somewhat confident that their personal information is safe.

But sharing personally identifiable information online is inevitable and ongoing. People link credit card numbers and other personal information to apps, subscriptions, membership accounts and more, making data breaches like what just happened to password manager LastPass a serious issue. 

According to a recent CivicScience poll, 82% of U.S. adults express some level of concern about their personally identifiable information being hacked or stolen from a company they use: 34% are very concerned and 48% are somewhat concerned. The apprehension is warranted, considering 29% of U.S. adults have had their data compromised in a major hack, per most recent CivicScience polling.

What are consumers doing (or not doing) to protect themselves in 2023?

Identity Theft Protection Software

Despite the general concerns about safeguarding information online, use of and satisfaction with ID theft protection software has decreased five percentage points since July 2021. Today, 32% of U.S. adults have experience using ID protection software, while 21% have used it and liked it. It’s not that people don’t like the software (dissatisfaction only increased by one percentage point), but more so that they aren’t as interested as they have been in the past (the percentage of “I haven’t used it and I’m not interested” increased). 

Moreover, one-quarter of U.S. adults polled report having had their identity stolen, yet 44% say they aren’t interested in paying for any kind of identity protection services. The majority of people interested in paying for a service say they would not pay more than $15 per month for one.

Freezing and Locking Credit

Credit monitoring is something more widely used by consumers to keep an eye on their personal data, although it is to be determined whether or not people are currently paying for it or have free access as a result of a data breach. When monitoring services alert individuals of fraudulent activity associated with their social security number, it’s usually recommended that they freeze or lock their credit to prevent further damage. CivicScience January data reveal that more than one-third of the Gen Pop say they have frozen and/or locked their credit at some point, and nearly 1-in-10 say their credit is currently frozen or locked.

Credit Monitoring Services

In a poll comparing major credit monitoring companies, Credit Karma is the most popular service (31% of credit monitoring users), and the most used among consumers under age 35. Experian is still tops for the 55-and-older crowd, although they are widely known for being more cautious about the status of their personal data online than other age groups.

Credit Karma prides itself on providing credit scores free of charge, with no hidden fees or additional costs. Considering the number of people unwilling to pay for identity protection services, it’s not far from the realm of possibility that Credit Karma’s popularity is closely tied to its lack of cost.

Equifax and TransUnion subscribers – of which there are quite fewer – are the most likely credit monitoring users among these companies to have locked or frozen their credit. Experian and Credit Karma seem to be meeting or exceeding their customers’ expectations.

It seems that consumers, while concerned about their personally identifiable information, don’t necessarily feel the risk is severe enough to outweigh the convenience and immediacy of using the internet to buy goods and services. People use credit monitoring and ID protection services, but not at quite the same magnitude as general concern about keeping their data safe. It’s an interesting dichotomy and one that might take more personal disasters to encourage folks to add another layer of protection to their online presence.

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