Two in five Brits have had their personal information put at risk by organisations that suffered data breaches. It means that 42% are at risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or identity fraud. Of those who have already been exposed in a data breach once, two thirds are concerned that the same thing could happen to them again, so it's more important than ever to take steps to protect yourself.
When there's a data breach, we are usually reassured by the news that no credit card details were accessed, and that you won't lose any money. However, this doesn't mean you can afford to sit back and do nothing. Once you have been a victim, your details are in the public domain, which means they may be traded illegally by fraudsters - or used to commit identity-related crimes
The research was conducted by Experian, which highlighted how important it is to protect yourself from fraudsters - particularly if you've been notified by an organisation that your information may have been compromised.
It was therefore particularly concerned how few victims of data breaches took steps to protect themselves. It found that 54% of people didn't even bother changing their password for the site that had been breached.
Amir Goshtai, Managing Director, Affinity, Experian Consumer Services, commented: "Despite a considerable number of people being affected by data breaches and cyber-attacks, it appears that many still don't understand the importance of protecting their own information online."
"Almost 7 in 10 people think the responsibility to protect their information is the sole responsibility of a service provider – when in reality this is only half the battle. While service providers have an obvious duty to protect the information they hold, we'll only make progress in the fight against fraudsters if individuals and organisations join forces to protect personal information."
He added: "If a fraudster gets their hands on the password to one of your accounts, not changing the password on your other accounts is like giving a burglar who has a key to your house instructions to find your most valuable possessions."
Experian recommends five steps to protect yourself from ID theft:
1. Use strong, unique passwords for your online accounts and change your passwords every couple of months. To be a strong password, you need to avoid words from the dictionary. One option is to use the first letter of each word from a memorable phrase.
2. Beware suspicious or unexpected emails. Experian points out that a reputable business will never ask for confirmation of details by email, so you should never be passing these details on.
3. Keep your devices' security settings (including computers, smartphones and tablets) up to date to help prevent phishing emails and other malware threats.
4. Protect your phone or tablet with a home screen lock. Also remember that public networks and open Wi-Fi hotspots are riskier than private networks, so consider carefully the information you are accessing on these networks.
5. Check your credit report regularly and make sure there's no unexpected activity on it.
Fraud stories on AOL Money
X Factor star Rebecca Ferguson ripped off by woman she thought was a friend
Scams Awareness Month: protect yourself from online scams
How scammers plan to trick you