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[SURVEY] 79% of Americans Share Passwords, But Only 13% Are Worried About Identity Theft

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You probably share account login information with friends, family, your partner, or in some cases, even your ex. But with all of this openness comes a vulnerability most people don’t consider. 

Password sharing is common practice in most families and friend groups (especially with popular services like Netflix and HBO). After all, it would cost around $450 a month to subscribe to every streaming service out there, an unaffordable investment for most Americans. To bridge that gap and still get the entertainment they want, many are sharing their account information with others to access more services. However, this password sharing habit might not be as innocent as it seems.

We asked more than 1,500 Americans about their biggest home security fears and password sharing habits. And it turns out, while password sharing is growing at an alarming rate, identity theft and hacking comes in low on consumers’ radars. Here’s what we found:

  • 79% of consumers admitted to sharing passwords with someone outside their home.
  • 7% of Americans are worried about their home or devices being hacked.
  • Only 13% of Americans said that identity theft is their biggest home security fear.
  • Video streaming and delivery service passwords were the most likely to be shared outside the home at 35% and 29%.

Password sharing: more dangerous than you think

The general consensus is that the only “victims” of password sharing are the streaming service companies, but the issue is often much more complex than that. Online hackers can infiltrate almost any device, find passwords, and learn other personally identifying information about you that they can use to steal your identity. And this risk only increases the more your account is used. 

Our survey showed that Americans are much more concerned about their homes getting broken into (33%) or a house fire (28%) than any online threat. But given that 39% of people use the same password for everything, hacking is a much greater threat than most people realize.

Password sharing can lead to many dangers such as identity theft and unwanted changes to personal files. And while these issues may not seem as pressing as an intruder or house fire, they can still wreak havoc on your bank account, credit score, and overall financial security. To help reduce your risk of getting hacked, it’s best to limit password sharing, diversify passwords for all your accounts, and invest in identity theft protection.

A delivery and streaming free-for-all

In addition to discovering how many people share passwords, we also wanted to take a look at which services were most vulnerable to hacking because of this habit. Our survey found that video streaming and delivery service passwords were the most likely to be shared outside the home at 35% and 29%. 

Video game and music streaming services were less likely to have multiple users on the same account, with only 6% and 9% of consumers admitting sharing passwords for these entertainment options.

Millennials aren’t worried about their privacy

The most interconnected generation of all is the least likely to worry about their identity or personal information getting stolen, according to our data. Only 11% of 18-to-24 year olds are worried about identity theft, with even less (4%) worried about hacking.

This is especially concerning given the cavalier attitude of younger generations when it comes to password sharing. A recent poll by LastPass showed that 40% of those aged 18 to 29 share their passwords with friends. This is a significant increase from the 15% of 30-to-44 year olds and the 6% of 45-to-59 year olds who admitted to doing the same.

Considering the increase in online data breaches in recent years, extra precautions should be taken to ensure privacy and anonymity when streaming. 

Below are some actions you can take now to boost your home security:

  • Reset your passwords if you have previously shared them with others.
  • Download a password manager to help keep track of your important accounts.
  • If sharing a password with others, share verbally to avoid the information getting hacked.
  • Update passwords to financial and health-related accounts every six months.
  • Never use the same password for multiple devices or accounts.
  • Make your passwords long, unique, and include plenty of numbers and symbols.

By following the above tips, consumers can protect themselves while still enjoying all of their favorite services. It’s also important to keep in mind that once a password is shared once, there is no telling how many other homes your account will be accessed from. So make sure you trust those you share your personal information with and give yourself extra protection with a home insurance policy that includes identity theft protection.

Sources

NBC News | Mental Floss

Methodology

This study was conducted for The Zebra using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of no fewer 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 February 2020.

The ZebraResource Center