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Nearly half of all companies had a data breach in the last year

If it seems like every time you get on the Internet there's a new story about a hack, a data breach, or how your personal information is compromised, that's because it's true.

Unfortunately, 2014 is the year of the hacker, and retail companies are slowly realizing that their data breach contingency plans are woefully inadequate. That's why 43% of companies have had data breaches in the last nine months alone, according to a report by the Ponemon Institute, which does independent research on privacy, data protection and information security policy.

In fact, Home Depot, the new leader in consumer data theft, previously employed as their head of security a man who is currently serving four years in prison. You can learn more about the Home Depot hack here. 

Other companies, if they have a data breach plan of action, haven't updated them in two years or more. And that's assuming that they have a data breach contingency plan.

According to the report, nearly 30% of companies don't have either a security response plan or a team in place.

Want to know how many companies have reviewed their data breach plan since it was first implemented? Nearly 40%, which is just under half of the retail companies surveyed.

Did you know that the United States is leading the world in data theft? Last year, the cost of consumer data theft was $38 billion.

To put that in perspective, a stack of $100 bills totaling $38 billion would be over 25 miles tall. That would be 51 of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, stacked on top of itself. And the pile would extend all the way into space.

That's a lot of money.

But it's not all bad news. I have some good news that you need to hear.

The good news is that while 43% of companies have had a data breach, that leaves over half of retail companies still secure. And even though 27% of companies have poor or no contingency plan in place, that means that over 70% of companies have a plan in place and review it regularly.

I know it seems scary out there, but don't start stuffing your family fortune into a mattress or dealing in gold bullion just yet. No security system is 100% bulletproof, but there are a few things that you can do to protect yourself.

Firstly, be careful about where you use your debit card. There are at least five places you should never use your debit card. Click here to learn what they are. 

You should also be vigilant in monitoring your accounts and routinely changing your passwords. Crooks can't get into your accounts as easily if you keep a close eye on them.

Click here to learn how to create tough passwords.

It's also a good idea to update the safety features on your social media accounts. There's a site that help you with all your accounts in one easy place. Click here to learn more. 

These ruthless hackers won't stop stealing customer information, but you don't have to let them steal your money, time or peace of mind.

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