Research shows more Americans are leaving their personal information open to thieves

OYSI: Change your password

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - New research from finds 9 in 10 Americans have taken at least one big data security risk in the past year. While the poll shows a majority of people are concerned about identity theft, it also finds a lot of people aren’t taking steps to protect themselves.

"Most people are taking significant security risks with their data. We found that six out of every 10 people for example are reusing the same password more than half the time,” Ted Rossman, a analyst said.

Having the same password for multiple accounts makes it that much easier for hackers to steal your information.

"One of the big things that gets taken in these breaches is password information. So if let’s say your Marriott account had the same password as your bank account all of a sudden you have a much bigger problem on your hands,” Rossman said.

Rossman suggests varying your passwords regularly or sign up for password manager services like LastPass. It will save, encrypt and secure your passwords.

"They’ll require you to just remember one but yet they’ll generate strong unique passwords for all the different sites that you login into. This could be the best of both worlds, convenience but also security,” Rossman said.

Almost half of the people surveyed have saved their passwords on their computers or phones. More than one in three have saved payment information on their devices. While it may be easier to save passwords, you might want to reconsider it.

Common sense things like shredding sensitive documents and carrying only essential things in your wallet or purse will also protect your information. Rossman says leave your social security card in a safe place, not on you. Also be careful when you hop on public wifi networks, hackers could be waiting on you to log on to your bank account.

Identity theft can follow you for years so that's why it’s important to protect yourself and not make it easy for people to steal your information.

"We don’t want to scare people, but we do want you to recognize that identity theft is a big problem and online theft is really growing,” Rossman added.

You can take steps to catch early fraud. One of those is checking your credit report. The survey also found almost one in five people have never checked their credit report and nearly as many haven’t checked their scores. If you suspect fraud, you can put a freeze on your credit for free under the new tax law.

You can find more about the survey here.

For more identity theft resources click here.

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