If you haven't dealt with a data breach, you probably will soon. It's not a matter of if, but when hackers have the time to get around to you.
Hackers stole the personal information of more than half of all Americans in 2014, according to the Ponemon Institute. Globally, hackers have swiped personal information and account username and passwords belonging to more than 1 billion people.
EvenInc. magazine suffered a breach recently. A staffer was duped by a phishing email and sent a PDF of employee W-2s to a criminal. In response, we have been freezing our credit, filing identity theft affidavits along with our taxes and monitoring our accounts.
This week, Adam Levin, the founder of identity theft management firm IDT911, came into Inc.'s offices to talk about what we should do now that hackers have our name, address, salary information and Social Security number.
Levin says it starts with recognizing the reality of our online world today.
"The environment we live in, breaches have become the third certainty of life," Levin says. "That's the reality. Getting breached is right behind death and taxes."
Every time you buy something on a credit or debit card, every time you Tweet or use Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, information about who you are, where you are, and what you're doing is being monitored, tracked, and stored. Companies buy and sell customer data and these companies get breached.
"As a result, the chances your information isn't already floating out there is extremely limited," says Levin. "The only reason why people haven't become victims of identity theft as of now is simply because they haven't gotten to us yet."
It all sounds fatalistic, but there are steps you can take to minimize your risk, monitor your identity and manage identity theft after a breach.
To minimize the risk of being hacked or to reduce further damage once criminals have your data, you need to limit the amount of information and access you give to everyone in your life and every organization you deal with. First and foremost, do not click on links in emails, text messages, or social media and do not verify your identity with personal or financial information to anyone who calls you. If you want to learn more about email phishing scams, listen to the Episode 54 of the Inc. Uncensored podcast.
Do not leave sensitive data on your hard drive. When you do your taxes or apply for a mortgage, take the files off your computer by putting them on an encrypted thumb drive.;