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When the Equifax data breach impacting nearly 147 million people occurred just over a year ago most consumers took little to no action to protect themselves despite the risk of identity theft, University of Michigan researchers found.
In comprehensive interviews with 24 consumers, a team of researchers at the U-M School of Information led by Yixin Zou and Florian Schaub found that few knew if they were impacted by the breach, although they had heard about it and understood the risks of identity theft, and even fewer took protective measures, such as freezing their credit reports.
People - Issues - Degree - Inaction - Data
"We expected that people might have issues with protecting themselves effectively but the degree of inaction after the data breach was definitely unexpected," said Zou, a doctoral student at the school. "While a majority of our participants (19 out of 24) knew a big data breach had occurred at one of the big three credit bureaus and demonstrated detailed awareness of identity theft risks, more than half of them did not translate this awareness into any protective measures."
The researchers said many participants exhibited what is called optimism bias.
Likelihood - Victim - Identity - Theft - Target
"They underestimated the likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft, thinking they would not be an attractive target and making the assumption that whoever had access to the stolen data would target people who were more affluent and had a better credit history, even though scammers are unlikely to investigate their financial situation before stealing their identity," said Schaub, U-M assistant professor of information. "In fact, other research has shown that people of low socioeconomic status are disproportionately affected by identity theft."
Some consumers reported a tendency to delay security related tasks until they are actually harmed, even though recovery from identity theft is more labor and time-intensive than prevention, the researchers said.
Consumers - Problem
Many consumers think if a problem is...
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