November 18, 2019

Shred-it Study Reveals Americans Believe Their Information Security Habits Make Them Vulnerable to Fraud

BANNOCKBURN, IL., November 18, 2019 - A third (33%) of Americans have been a victim of information fraud or identity theft; however, despite notable data breaches in 2019, when asked if they update or change passwords/PINs after a company they do business with suffers a data breach, more than a quarter (28%) say only sometimes and nearly one in 10 (9%) say they don’t update their passwords at all. That’s according to Shred-it’s second annual International Fraud Awareness Week Report, which exposes consumer information security concerns, trends and habits ahead of International Fraud Awareness Week November 17-23, 2019.
Four in ten (41%) Americans who have been a victim of information fraud or identity theft became one because their credit card number was stolen or used, another 22% reported someone stole their information from physical paper documents (e.g., W-2, mail, paper files at work, etc.) – highlighting a need for improved digital and physical information security – and 20% reported a company they do business with was hacked. However, nearly half (43%) of Americans still have their credit card/financial information stored on a company/brand website for easier or faster checkout and more than a third (35%) store paper documents containing sensitive personal information in an unlocked box, desk drawer or cabinet at home or work, leaving another method of fraud open to occur.
“The International Fraud Awareness Week Report reveals that despite a rise in data breaches this year and heightened concern over identity theft, Americans’ security habits are making them more vulnerable than ever to information fraud or identity theft,” said Mike Borromeo, VP of Data Protection, Stericycle, the provider of Shred-it information security solutions. “As a supporting organization for International Fraud Awareness Week, we believe it’s vital that security leaders bring awareness and stress the importance of protecting customer information, both online and in physical form, not only during this week dedicated to preventing fraud, but every day.”
Nearly half (46%) of Americans believe they are vulnerable to information fraud or identity theft based on their physical and digital security habits. While nearly two-thirds are more concerned that they could fall victim to an online security breach, 13% are more concerned they could fall victim to a physical security breach. Additionally, nearly two in five (39%) Americans take more information security precautions at home, while 17% take more precautions at work and 40% of Americans are equally as cautious at home and work. However, more than a quarter (27%) of Americans do not shred paper or physical documents containing sensitive information before throwing them away at home, and nearly three in ten (28%) Americans do not shred similar documents before throwing them away at work.
Additional findings from the survey include:
Americans’ Password Habits Make Them Susceptible to Fraud

  • More than half (51%) of Americans admit to reusing passwords/PINs across multiple accounts
    • Women (53%) are more likely than men (49%) to reuse passwords/PINs
    • Gen Zs (60%) are the most likely to reuse passwords/PINS, compared to Millennials (59%) and Baby Boomers (46%)
  • One in five (20%) Americans admit to sharing their passwords/PINs for internet, entertainment or TV viewing services with family or friends
    • Gen Zs (36%) are the most likely to share passwords/PINs with family and friends, compared to Millennials (30%) and Baby Boomers (11%)
  • Nearly a third (31%) of Americans think they could guess their significant other or close family member’s passwords/PINs

Americans Aren’t Confident in Brands’ Ability to Protect Them From Data Breaches

  • If a company or brand they have done business with suffered a data breach, more than a third (34%) of Americans would stop doing business with them or delete their account/membership
  • More than four in 10 (41%) Americans believe that brands today do not take proper security measures to safeguard their personal information, and think their personal information could be vulnerable to a breach
  • Providing protection against fraud is key for businesses as nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans would be more likely to shop or do business with a company that has cyber insurance protection

Purchasing Decisions May Be Impacting Americans’ Information Security

  • When asked to choose, more than two in five Americans (41%) think making an online retail purchase would make them most vulnerable to information fraud or identity theft compared to:
    • Banking online (21%), leaving paper trails or receipts from in-person purchases or transactions (20%), traveling (8%)
  • Although 55% of Americans say they have not left behind their copy of a receipt in public, nearly two in five (38%) have done so

For more information about Shred-it’s “International Fraud Awareness Week Report,” click here to read the full report .
About Shred-it
Shred-it is an information security service provided by Stericycle, Inc. Shred-it’s world-leading information destruction solutions ensure the security and integrity of private and confidential information, protecting more than 500,000 global, national and local businesses across 17 countries worldwide. For more information, please visit