Most data-breach victims take no action

What do you do if you've been the victim of a data breach, and your personal or account information has fallen into the hands of criminals? That's not as theoretical a question as you might hope. Some 41 percent of American consumers have experienced just card fraud -- let alone other losses -- in the last five years, according to the Aite Group's 2014 Global Consumer Fraud Survey. And certainly the Target breach, in which hackers grabbed 40 million card numbers and 70 million addresses, phone numbers and other pieces of personal information, was headline news.

Few actually know they're victims

It turns out that what people should do when they've been the victims of data breaches and what they actually do are two very different things. CardRatings.com recently commissioned an OP4G survey to question a representative sample of 2,000 married American homeowners, ages 25 and up, and split evenly between men and women.

The first -- and arguably most concerning -- finding from our survey is one that suggests many simply don't know they have been victims of data breaches. Only 25.5 percent of our respondents said they had been, which is worryingly short of the likely actual number. Last year, ID Experts, a company that specializes in "data breach care," told PCMag's SecurityWatch that more than 600 million records had been compromised in security breaches in this country between 2005 and 2012 -- and that's roughly two events per citizen. So probably close to 100 percent of this survey's respondents have been victims (especially if you believe homeowners age 25 and older are likely to have more accounts and be on more databases than others), but 74.5 percent didn't know.

What victims might do

So what do victims do when they become aware that their data have been breached? We asked them whether they'd carried out all or any of seven actions, and the following percentages reflect how many survey participants had taken action:
  1. Check credit card statement: 51.18 percent
  2. Check credit report: 45.29 percent
  3. Check bank account: 54.31 percent
  4. Stopped using my credit card: 37.84 percent
  5. Stopped using my debit card: 32.75 percent
  6. Signed up for credit monitoring: 24.31 percent
  7. Put a credit freeze in place: 24.12 percent

What too many victims don't do

The bad news is 48.82 percent said they didn't check their credit card statements and 45.69 percent their bank accounts. No, really! Very nearly half reported they didn't bother to check either when told their data had been compromised.