When an emergency strikes, you might already have a plan, at least for most of the typical threats. Your plan can be highly detailed or very general, depending on the likelihood of the incident. If you live in a region known for tornadoes, you might already have an interior closet or basement room that’s designated as your shelter. If your part of the state is susceptible to wildfires, you might have a home evacuation plan. If you live in a coastal area, you probably have some sense of which roads to take to safety in the days before a severe hurricane.
All of those headline-worthy events have one thing in common, though: They’re statistically less likely to affect you than identity theft and data breaches. So do you have your data breach response plan?
According to a survey conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center and CyberScout, far too many people don’t have that plan already in place. In fact, despite the record-setting numbers of data breaches each year, too many consumers have no action steps in mind in the event that their information is stolen or compromised.
It’s great that 80 percent of the respondents see the connection between a data breach and the possibility of identity theft, but after that, the correlation gets a little hazy for some consumers. Despite knowing the potential harm, only about half the respondents said they took advantage of credit monitoring that was offered to them after the loss of their personal data. Following a breach, 49.3 percent said they were confused about their next steps, while 32 percent said they wouldn’t even know who to turn to for support. While 38 percent said they would begin with their banks—a good place to start, obviously—only 3.8 percent said they would contact their insurance companies to see what identity theft coverage was in place, if any.
Data breaches can vary widely in the damage they can lead to, so it’s important to understand the experiences these survey respondents had in the past. According to their answers, 52 percent of the respondents said their Social Security numbers had been compromised in a breach, along with credit/debit card information (48 percent), email addresses (35 percent), and then other financial account information (28 percent).
The best place to start your action steps is by reading the notification letter. If you do learn that your data was compromised, the notification will outline what kind of information was involved, such as contact information like email addresses or more sensitive personal information like your Social Security number. From there, the notification will offer you support details and credit monitoring if necessary. Of course, the ITRC is always happy to be your first step following any data breach or identity theft event, and representatives are available in their toll-free call center to get you started.
Eva Velasquez is president and CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center, sponsored by CyberScout.