"Victims feel very vulnerable and want empowerment," says Foley. "They want to be in control, and watching their credit report is part of that. They don't want to give out a Social Security number or account numbers to a third party."
|What would you do if you believed you may be an ID theft target?|
|If you believed that you may be the target of identity theft, which of the following activities would you consider doing to protect your credit?||Total||Men||Women||Concerned with having identity stolen||Not concerned with having identity stolen|
|Personally checking your credit report and monitoring your accounts||84%||80%||88%||86%||76%|
|Having fraud alerts placed on your credit files||73%||70%||77%||78%||53%|
|Initiating a credit or security freeze||65%||66%||64%||68%||49%|
|Subscribing to a credit monitoring service||39%||35%||42%||41%||29%|
|None||7%||9%||4%|| || |
Education is the main answer, she says. "Many people don't know they can check their credit reports for free and the commercials on TV may have impacted this. They see a chance to get a credit report for free only to find that they are now part of a paid service," she says, referring to the misleading advertising of freecreditreport.com, which charges a fee for its service. (Consumers can get a copy of their credit reports for free at annualcreditreport.com.)
Respondents also said they would more likely use a fraud alert over a credit freeze -- 73 percent to 65 percent.
"I'm not that sure they are fully aware of the differences and nuances across the services," says Litan. "But if fraud alerts worked all the time, they would be preferable since you would be alerted of every credit check and could stop it. Hence it's effectively a credit freeze with a little less hassle for the consumer."
Though in general fears compel people to act defensively, more could be done to teach people about how to protect their personal information as well as the negative consequences of identity theft.
"People don't understand the nuances of this crime and therefore make decisions based on commercials which portray identity theft as someone getting a credit card as you," says Foley.
Litan puts the burden on corporations rather than individuals.
"A lot of consumers have concerns about security but most are unwilling to proactively do anything about it," she says. "Frankly, it's a tough world to navigate and much of it is beyond consumer control. In my opinion, it's the service providers, for instance banks and mortgage companies, that need to proactively protect consumers."