Facebook’s privacy crisis threw up red flags galore about the fragile infrastructure surrounding consumers’ online personal data, but the situation in reality is actually far worse—about one-third of U.S. consumers (34 percent) have been notified that their data has been breached, according to a survey from The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (HSB), part of Munich Re—and one in five have been the victim of identity theft.

The nationwide poll, conducted for HSB by Zogby Analytics, reflects the growing risks for consumers as more of their personally identifying information is stored online. Almost half of those who had received a breach notification said they had been informed within the past 12 months.

“Data breaches continue to expose millions of Americans to identity theft and fraud,” said Timothy Zeilman, vice president and counsel for HSB, a provider of cyber insurance and services, in a news release. “On the positive side, forty-eight states now require that affected individuals be notified and more consumers are taking advantage of credit monitoring and identity restoration services offered by businesses and insurers.”

How is our data getting exposed?

Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of individuals whose personal information had been breached were offered credit monitoring or restoration services and 41 percent took advantage of those benefits.

The HSB consumer survey also showed that 18 percent of total respondents had been the victim of identity theft and a third had become aware of situation within the previous 12 months.

Asked when they discovered their identity had been stolen, 38 percent said when they applied for credit, were notified of a fraudulent tax filing, were named in a collection agency action over a debt, or some other financial or legal transaction.

Another 37 percent found out when they received a data breach notification; 20 percent spotted suspicious activity on their credit report, and four percent were notified by law enforcement.

Many victims (38 percent) didn’t know how their identity was stolen. Twenty-six percent said it was stolen online; 23 percent said it was breached from a bank, retailer, or other institution; eight percent through the loss or theft of a wallet, purse, laptop or smartphone, and five percent said a friend or family member.

Zogby Analytics was commissioned by Hartford Steam Boiler to conduct an online survey of 1,551 adults in the United States. Based on a confidence interval of 95 percent, the margin for error was plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, meaning all other things being equal, the identical survey repeated will have results within the margin of error 95 times out of 100.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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