A new study crossed my desk the other day that touches on identity theft and contains some very useful information that I wanted to call to your attention. The study comes from Internet security provider AVG Technologies and reveals that we baby boomers are lax in safeguarding ourselves against identity theft, financial fraud and loss of personal data.
In a survey of 1,300 persons between the ages of 46 and 64 in 15 North American cities, the study concludes that many are not taking a proactive approach to protecting themselves online, and they need to "become more educated about digital security." Baby boomers make up one quarter of the U.S. population. 81 percent own desktop computers, 61 percent use laptops, and another 30 percent have smartphones, and 20 percent use tablets to conduct online transactions.
Of the 1,300 people interviewed:
- 65 percent don't check online banking statements more than once per week
- Almost 60 percent do not use a cell phone password
- 45 percent would have to manually re-enter data should their phone be lost or stolen
- Nearly 20 percent report at least one other person knows their password
The survey revealed good and bad habits. For instance, 39 percent of respondents run manual antivirus scans more than once a month, which is good. But at the same time, more than half back up their home computer data using portable external media such as CDs, USB sticks or other personal storage products which can be lost or stolen.
"Mobile devices have become extremely popular…↑Tablets and smartphones simply make life easier by allowing access to family photos, banking, shopping, and medical records from any location at any time" said JR Smith, AVG CEO. "What (respondents) don't know is that public Wi-Fi, for example, makes them extremely vulnerable to data theft. And you don't have to be a grandpa to leave your iPad in a taxi."
AVG suggests that all of us should:
- Use one credit card with a low spending limit for all online purchases. Monitor this account regularly, and flag any inappropriate activity immediately to the bank or lending institution.
- Change passwords regularly, use variations for each online account, and never, ever share them with others.
- Back up data! Back up your data on computers with external hard drives or a cloud-based solution, and don't forget about your mobile devices, too.
- Protect data on the go. The more personal information is shared via mobile devices, the more hackers will target these tools.
- Be wary of phishing scams. Never click on links in emails from banks, or other financial institutions — go directly to their URL and enter login information from their homepage.
AVG CEO Smith concludes: "Some of the better attackers know exactly who they are dealing with and will view baby boomers as being deficient in online safety skills. The opportunity to take advantage of them is on the rise; therefore, it's important for baby boomers to familiarize themselves with how to minimize the risk of theft or fraud."
This is great advice for all of us - and another illustration of our vulnerabilities.