PHOENIX (3 On Your Side) - This year has been riddled with challenges, including hundreds of data breaches that have put consumers' personal information at risk. Cybersecurity experts say there is no sign of the trend slowing in the new year.

A strong password is the first step to protecting your identity. But according to Adam Levin, the founder of CyberScout, there are several common mistakes people make with passwords that put them at risk.

"As we move further and further into tokenization and other ways of authenticating ourselves with two-factor authentication, the truth of the matter is passwords are still king at the moment," Levin said.

Why you should stop using passwords!

According to Statista, there were 540 reported breaches in the United States in the first half of 2020. In 2019, there were nearly 1,500 data breaches, which exposed more than 164 million records, the consumer research company said.

"You may have what you think is the most complicated password in the world, and it may be. But unfortunately, if it's discovered as part of a breach, then [scammers] are going to use that password, too," Levin said. "That's why it's important to consider using password managers, which can create passwords on the fly that are very complex passwords."

Consumer Reports puts password managers to the test

The Federal Trade Commission also recommends using a password manager. But if that's not for you, the agency says it is important to have complex passwords.

If a company is breached and you have an online account with them, change your password immediately. The FTC says you should also change any similar passwords you use for unrelated accounts.

Related stories about passwords and protecting your information online

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PWNED? Do hackers have my passwords?
Can you be hacked? Absolutely!
What is a USB security key and why should I consider getting one?

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