Identity theft has affected 41M Americans, most engage in poor password practices, survey finds

Nearly one third of Americans have either had their identity stolen, or personally know someone who has, a new survey has revealed, highlighting just how common and easy people can fall victim to fraud in the digital age.

A new Bankrate Money Pulse survey has estimated that 41 million U.S. adults have been victims of identity theft, while another 49 million know someone who had their identity stolen.

Americans were also polled on what practices they use to protect their identity, and discovered some good habits are common — 71 percent, for example, said they shred sensitive documents, and 61 percent avoid using unsecure Wi-Fi connections.

Most people also said they regularly check their credit report — especially those under the age of 50. But only 18 percent said they have ever requested a credit freeze.

And in perhaps the most problematic finding, particularly in light of security breaches with services like Yahoo, just 33 percent of respondents said they use unique passwords for all of their online accounts.

Security experts recommend that users revisit their online accounts and change passwords, as well as security questions, particularly in light of the Yahoo breach, which affected 500 million user accounts. One advisable method is to use randomized, secure suggested passwords from services like 1Password, Dashlane, or even built-in options in browsers like Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome.