Almost half of American consumers (48%) think it is at least somewhat likely they will lose money to identity theft in the near future, according to data from a Harris Poll conducted on behalf of the AICPA. The survey polled 1,006 U.S. adults by phone in the autumn of 2017.
Their instincts may be correct: 143 million U.S. consumers were victims of cybercrime in 2017, with losses hitting $19.4 billion.
Still, only three in five adults responding to the AICPA survey (61%) said they had ever looked at their credit report. Monitoring your credit is an important step in protecting your finances, according to the AICPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. Consumers can request one free report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies and review them for unusual activity.
Consumers should also check credit reports associated with their children's names, even if their children are years away from applying for credit, said Neal Stern, CPA, member of the AICPA Financial Literacy Commission.
Eighty-one percent of consumers reported making changes to their behavior to ward off potential scammers, including tactics such as:
- More frequently checking accounts and statements for unusual activity (56%).
- Using cash or checks more often (43%).
- Shopping at locally owned businesses rather than national chains in hopes of avoiding data leaks (40%).
- Going to fewer websites or quitting social media (26%).
It's important to report suspicious financial activity quickly, Stern said, as losses can escalate if notification is delayed. The commission also recommends using only secure wireless internet networks, as thieves may skim personal information from open networks at coffee shops and airports.