Americans are worried about the Equifax hack. They're just not doing much about it

Equifax hack: What you need to know
Equifax hack: What you need to know

Most Americans are worried about the Equifax cybersecurity breach -- but not many have taken steps to protect themselves.

A poll conducted by research firm SSRS asked American consumers if they'd heard about the breach and how concerned they were that their sensitive information might have been stolen.

Two-thirds said they were "very" or "somewhat" concerned that their information was affected by the Equifax breach in which hackers were able to access the personal information of as many as 143 million people.

But just 19% of respondents said they had taken any steps to find out if their personal information had been compromised.

Of those who did take action, 36% said they've placed a fraud alert on their credit. Just 28% enrolled in the free credit-monitoring service offered by Equifax. About 20% said they purchased another credit-monitoring service, and 21% said they've frozen their credit.

Related: 5 things to do right now if you're worried about the Equifax hack

Among all Americans, 31% said they were "not too concerned" or "not at all concerned" about the breach, which exposed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver's license numbers. It's still not clear who perpetrated the attack.

Nearly 8 in 10 respondents said companies that do a bad job protecting customer data should face more severe legal penalties. That view cuts across party lines: 81% of Democrats and independents and 79% of Republicans agreed.

Equifax is leaving victims to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to protecting their identities. Though the company is offering a free credit-monitoring service, it's not reaching out to those affected -- people have to go to the Equifax website to find out if their details may have been exposed in the hack.

More on survey methodology

The poll also shows that Equifax hasn't done a great job alerting the public to what happened. Only 54% of respondents said they had heard of the incident, and just 4% said they had been notified by a credit card company that their own information may have been affected.

The survey found concern was higher among older Americans. Among those age 45 and older, 72% were concerned, compared with 57% of younger adults. And women were more worried than men -- 70% of women, compared to 62% of men.

The breach hasn't scared people away from credit, either. Of those surveyed, 81% said the incident hasn't affected their decision to sign up for any type of credit card in the future.

About three in 10 Americans said they've faced some form of identity theft in the past. That figure rises with income -- almost half of those with annual incomes of $75,000 or more said they've been notified by a credit card company or retailer that their personal information had been compromised.

Related: Why Millennials should be really worried about the Equifax breach

SSRS conducted the survey by phone between September 14 and September 17. Roughly 1,000 American adults participated. For results among the full sample of 1,004 adults, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

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