Many Americans Still Make Crucial Security Mistakes With their Finances Title Image

Many Americans Still Make Crucial Security Mistakes With Their Finances

Many Americans Still Make Crucial Security Mistakes With their Finances Title Image

Now more than ever, it’s easier for hackers to get a hold of private information. Card skimmers and formjacking are just a few new ways hackers have begun targeting financial information in the last decade. Thanks to these new methods, 157,688 credit card fraud reports were filed in 2018.

In a 2018 survey, we found that theft and fraud were Americans’ biggest fears about owning a credit card compared to things like debt and overspending.

For this survey, we wanted to uncover how careful Americans are with their finances given the high prevalence of fraud and their levels of fear. We asked a total of 4,000 Americans a series of questions about their safety habits with their financial information and found that many Americans engage in risky behavior.

Key Findings

  • More than one-third of Americans have thrown away financial documents without shredding them
  • One-fourth of Americans carry all of their credit cards with them
  • Nearly one in five Americans have made purchases on public WiFi
  • Nearly twice as many men have texted or emailed a credit card number compared to women

More Than One Third Have Thrown Away Financial Documents Without
Shredding Them

Before diving into American habits with digital files and information, we’ll first take a look at how they treat old-fashioned paper files. Unfortunately, we found that more than one in three Americans still toss out financial paperwork without putting it through the shredder. Anyone who throws away sensitive files as-is puts themselves at risk for credit card fraud and identity theft from both burglars and dumpster divers.

Financial documents include things like credit card offers, bills and bank statements. Tossing these documents without shredding them allows fraudsters the opportunity to open credit cards in your name, gain access to your bank account and perform other malicious actions that can put you in debt and impact your credit score.

Here are examples of what information thieves can steal from your unshredded documents:

Information Thieves Can Steal From Unshredded Documents Image

In addition to the documents listed in the image above, the FTC also recommends that things like sales receipts should be shredded right away, but important documents like tax returns should be kept forever.

A Quarter of Americans Carry All Credit Cards At All Times

Carrying multiple credit cards naturally increases the chances of theft and misplacement. However, we found that almost one-fourth of Americans carry all of their credit cards with them.

One survey found that 64 percent of people have lost their wallet, purse, pocketbook or money clip at least once. Another found that more than a quarter spent more than a few days undoing the damage. Misplacing your own wallet is one issue, but pickpockets are another danger you’ll need to keep an eye on.

Atlantic reporter Rene Chun reported that pickpockets are finding new opportunities to steal as Americans become more distracted by their devices. He found that pickpocketing increased in Chicago by 13 percent between 2017 and 2018. Having your wallet stolen by a pickpocket is much worse if you carry all of your cards with you compared to only having one on you.

Almost One Fifth of Americans Have Made a Purchase While Using Public WiFi

Doing last minute gift or grocery shopping at your local coffee shop sounds convenient, but can put you at great risk if you’re not careful about what you click and how you connect to the internet. Our survey found that one in five Americans have taken this risk.

Mobile shopping has become increasingly risky over the years. Experian found that ecommerce fraud increased by 30 percent in 2017. Medium and large retailers offering mobile services saw a 134 percent increase in fraud between 2018 and 2019. 

This is alarming since shopping online already comes with a number of vulnerabilities hackers can exploit. E-skimming is one method where hackers use malicious code on payment pages to steal payment information. Pharming is another hacking technique that redirects a website’s traffic to a fake site to get users to unknowingly submit their information.

Cases of Fraud Image

Source: LexisNexis Risk Solutions as reported by Retail Dive

Combining online shopping risks like these with the dangers of public WiFi creates even more opportunities for hackers.

Here are a few ways hackers can steal your information while shopping on public WiFi:

  • Fake hotspots: Hackers set up fraudulent WiFi access points to trick you into thinking they’re real. This lets them gain access to your files and information and potentially download malware to your phone.
  • Man-in-the-middle attack (MITM): Hackers intercept data by exploiting security vulnerabilities if you’re browsing the internet on an unsecured connection. Hackers can steal passwords, financial data and more with this method.
  • Sidejacking: Hackers hijack your current browsing session to gain access to any accounts you’re logged into at the time.
  • Shoulder-surfing: Since public WiFi implies you’re in a public area, you put yourself at risk of others seeing your screen and reading things like passwords, pins and account numbers over your shoulder.

Hackernoon writer Patrick Wilbur set up an experiment in early 2019 to demonstrate how easy it is to steal information from public WiFi users. In one afternoon, 49 devices connected to his fake WiFi called, “Free Guest WiFi” that would have given him the opportunity to set up a phishing attack and trick people into submitting their personal information.

Twice as Many Men Have Texted or Emailed Their Credit Card Number Compared to Women

Regardless of your gender, anyone can easily become a victim of fraud by texting or emailing sensitive information. In addition to your accounts, security with your mobile device is another factor to consider. Fraud attacks via mobile apps increased by 191 percent in the first half of 2019 alone.

Keeping Your Financial Information Safe

The potential of identity theft requires us all to stay vigilant of both our online and offline activities. Unfortunately, there is no real way to completely prevent identity theft. This is why it’s just as important to understand how to spot signs of fraud in addition to knowing how to prevent it.

One way to spot if you’re a victim of identity theft is by scanning your credit report for any items that look suspicious or otherwise incorrect. Any fraudulent or inaccurate information that remains on your report can unfairly drop your credit score and should be removed as soon as possible.

If you think you’re a victim of fraud, contact the team at Lexington Law Firm for a free credit report consultation to see how we can help you identify and remove inaccurate information.


This study was conducted for Lexington Law using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,000 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey was conducted in December 2019.

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