It seems like not a week goes by without news of a cybersecurity incident. Equifax was recently investigated by Congress after the company sustained a massive breach affecting 144 million Americans. Similarly, Yahoo recently admitted that a breach from 2012 affected 3 billion accounts.
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If you're worried, you're not alone. A Pew survey from the beginning of this year found that almost half of Americans think their personal data is far less secure than it was five years ago. In light of recent news, that number may have skyrocketed. The same Pew study found that 64 percent Americans have experienced some kind of data theft, including fraudulent credit card charges (41 percent) and compromised social security numbers (15 percent).
It is clear by now that breaches are not so much a question of "if" as a question of "when." How can you minimize the threat to your sensitive information and deal with the damage that may arise as quickly and effectively as possible?
The answer, it turns out, may come when you make your next career move. Increasingly, more and more companies are offering identity protection services as a benefit to their employees. A study conducted by Willis Towers Watson found that while 35 percent of employers provided identity theft protection in 2015, that number was likely to rise to around 70 percent by 2018.
Identity protection might seem like an unnecessary financial burden to some employers, but it's actually one of the smartest moves a company can make. If a bad actor gets hold of an employee's social security number, for example, they can use it for credit card and tax fraud. The time and energy it takes an employee to recover from this theft — sometimes taking weeks and even months – is time and energy the employer loses. In this sense, identity protection is an investment that actually winds up helping the company in the long run.
Most of us don't currently think to ask about identity protection benefits when we're on the job hunt, but this service will only grow more important in the coming years. As more aspects our lives go digital, we're creating larger pools of personal data for thieves to exploit. Identity theft protection services can help people recover stolen information and recuperate the costs of identity theft, which in 2014 averaged well over $1,000 per person.
When assessing a prospective employer's identity protection benefits, it's important to make sure the offer is comprehensive coverage. Merely offering financial identity theft protection like a credit monitoring service is insufficient. There are other, far more sinister kinds of identity theft that can threaten not only your personal finances, but also your criminal record and your medical records. Comprehensive coverage will take into account most, if not all, of the nine kinds of identity theft (financial, child, social security, driver's license, criminal, employment, insurance, synthetic, and medical identity theft) and ensure that you receive protection across all fronts.
Ultimately, the kind of company that offers identity recovery services is the kind of company you want to be working for. Such an offering indicates a proactive, forward-thinking approach on the organization's part. When a company fails to adopt best cybersecurity practices, it leaves itself open to big, brand-destroying breaches. Firms that have already decided to invest in protecting their employees' data are far more likely to be the kind of firms that protect their own data.
Identity protection benefits also indicate that the company is invested in its employees in a holistic sense, both as workers and as individuals. Until recently, holistic interest meant offering a fair amount of vacation time and a strong medical insurance plan. In our connected world, however, it also means being invested in employees' digital well-being.
It is not asking for too much to expect identity protection as an employee benefit. Rather, you are simply asking your company to equip you to be the best, most effective employee you are capable of being.
Thomas F. Kelly is president and CEO of ID Experts.