Number of consumers hit by data breaches has doubled

One-quarter of American adults say they've been victims of cyberattacks in the past 12 months. That's more than twice the percentage who reported being victimized in the previous year.

More than half of consumers are very concerned about the ability of businesses to safeguard their private information, and more than eight in 10 Americans have done something to protect themselves. Those measures range from going back to buying with cash to reducing their online presence, according to a just-released annual survey of more than 1,000 adults.

"The increase in data breaches affecting personal information has given consumers significant cause to be cautious about their activities, both online and off," said Ernie Almonte, chair of the American Institute of CPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, which sponsors the annual survey. "Data breaches have the potential to seriously affect consumer finances and wreak havoc on their credit scores."

Roughly one in five consumers surveyed said ID theft had damaged their credit scores. However, more than one-third of those who felt some factor had hurt their credit score said the fault was their own, mostly high credit card debt.

Bad credit scores kept more than one-quarter of U.S. adults from doing something they wanted in the past year, according to the survey. Some 15 percent said they were unable to get a personal loan or a credit card, 10 percent were unable to obtain a mortgage, 8 percent were unable to rent an apartment and 5 percent said a bad credit score kept them from landing a job.

On the bright side, Americans say they've changed their financial behavior in positive ways since the financial crisis. Specifically:

  • 3 in five say they now follow a monthly budget.
  • 50 percent say they're charging less on their credit cards.
  • 44 percent have started saving or have increased their savings rate.
  • 35 percent started or boosted contributions to an emergency fund.
  • 32 percent started or hiked contributions to a retirement account.