An alarming 43 percent of American companies have reported data breaches during 2014, according to the Ponemon Institute and Experian Data Breach Resolution. The number continues to rise, and the scope of the breaches is expanding.

More than 80 percent of data breaches have their root cause in employee negligence. A company may be spear-fished (an e-mail is received that appears to be from a familiar individual or business, but it’s actually a hacker who’s after confidential financial information); an employee gives out their password; a USB is lost; someone mishandles files; or the network operations hub is not properly secured, allowing someone with nefarious intent to waltz right in.

How to Protect Yourself From Data Breach:

Affected consumers need to protect themselves:

  • Call one of the three major credit bureaus and place a one-call fraud alert on your credit report—Equifax, 1-800-525-6285; Experian, 1-888-397-3742; TransUnion, 1-800-680-7289. Creditors will be required to contact you before opening new accounts or increasing credit limits on current accounts.
  • Most states allow consumers to place a security freeze on their credit reports, which forbids credit-reporting agencies from releasing any information without the consumer’s written authorization.
  • Order a free copy of your credit report and search for unauthorized activity. To make sure you get to the correct web site, type into your browser. Don’t be fooled by look-alike sites.
  • Monitor your financial accounts for suspicious activity.
  • Beware of “phishing”—scammers pretending to represent the organization subject to the data breach, or claiming to be law enforcement, to dupe customers into giving out sensitive information in the guise of confirming account numbers or other financial data. Any doubt, don’t give it out. Contact the company/organization yourself.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission, 1-877-FTC-HELP or