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Has your identity ever been stolen?
How did you find out and deal with it, once it happened? Are you prepared if it happens again? A company like IdentityForce is primed and ready to help you proactively protect your accounts from fraud and manage the recovery process if your accounts are compromised.
Take a look behind the curtain in this exclusive interview with Mr. Stephen Bearak, CEO at IdentityForce to get to know him and the identity theft protection industry a little better.
1. What is your background prior to IdentityForce and how has it helped in your current role?
IdentityForce is a family-owned business whose roots began with my father, Herb Bearak, 40 years ago. His company, Stop-Loss Associates, focused on the development and implementation of security policies and procedures. I learned many lessons from him on how to operate and grow a successful business.
After graduating with a Law degree from Suffolk University, I opened a division of Stop-Loss Associates called Bearak Reports. We focused on asset search, background screening, business intelligence and public information services. With the proliferation of the Internet and digital connectivity in the early 2000s, I recognized the growing need to protect sensitive and confidential personal information, which led to the start of IdentityForce in 2006.
2. With so many recent data breaches, how can companies protect themselves?
I think it’s critical for management teams to not only understand all the security threats facing their business but to also realize that it’s their employees who are the first line of defense against cyber attacks. It’s important to provide ongoing education for employees, giving them tools to recognize suspicious activity, but also how they can and should escalate and report it to the right stakeholders. This training should begin during the on-boarding process and be refreshed multiple times per year to keep it top-of-mind.
Another way that companies are protecting themselves, their employees and customers, is by offering identity protection services. In 2017, we saw the largest number of data breaches in recorded history, and more than 50 percent of companies experienced a cyber attack in the past year. The latest data breach study showed that it costs U.S. businesses an average of $7.35 million per breach. In short, a data breach can cripple an organization, so it’s no surprise that identity theft protection is the fastest-growing employee benefit that management teams are offering their employees.
3. Besides getting IdentityForce, what can consumers do to protect their identity?
There are several ways that consumers can protect themselves and their families. Here are some helpful suggestions you might want to consider for yourself and even share with your family, friends, colleagues, employees, and customers:
Start Deleting & Shredding
Shed the unwanted risk of computer files you no longer need by deleting excess clutter. Shred any unnecessary, old documents that contain sensitive information.
Create Strong Passwords
No two passwords should be the same — remember, the most secure passwords are 12 characters consisting of random strings of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
Get a Password Manager
Another great security asset is a password manager, which can automatically create a unique and strong password for every secure website — great for personal and business use. (We at SafeSmartLiving recommend Dashlane)
Beware of Public Wi-Fi
If you absolutely must use public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN); this encrypts your transmissions. At home, ensure your Wi-Fi is secure.
Stop Clicking Randomly
Hackers put out links to lure people into clicking — triggering a virus download — so be vigilant.
Protect Your Home
What have you learned over the years that you have applied at IdentityForce?
Over the years we’ve seen the complexity and sophistication of scams increase dramatically. I’ve learned just how far fraudsters will go to execute their attacks. As a result, we’ve had to adapt and continually innovate to best protect those who put their trust in us.
To meet the evolving needs of our increasingly-digital world, IdentityForce has made it a top priority to solicit feedback from our members and tailor new capabilities to help address current threats. In 2017, we launched our award-winning mobile application, allowing people to have anywhere, anytime access to their identity protection with real-time alerts. Additionally, we added our Social Media Identity Monitoring suite to help users safeguard their reputation online.
Can you share any real-life examples of how IdentityForce has saved someone from a major threat/risk?
There are too many success stories to share from our members throughout the years. However, the most common example of how IdentityForce helps prevent identity theft happens daily. Our smart alerts notify our members in real-time of any suspicious activity involving their sensitive personally identifiable information. From there we offer hands-on, dedicated support to help stop this fraudulent activity in its tracks.
In worst-case scenarios where a member misses or ignores a suspicious smart alert notification and has their identity compromised, our packages include fully-managed restoration services and a $1 million insurance policy. To date, IdentityForce has successfully restored 100% of members’ identities that have been compromised.
Which IdentityForce features most differentiate it from the other ID theft players?
I think what separates IdentityForce is our member-centric culture and Stevie award-winning support. As a team, we truly care about providing a best-in-class experience, and we shape our features and products based on member feedback. In just the past 12 months, we’ve launched a Golden Bridge award-winning mobile application and a brand new Social Media Identity Monitoring suite. Both of these initiatives were member-driven. Our commitment to IdentityForce members speaks to our 95 percent customer retention and 98 percent customer satisfaction rate.
What features (if any) does IdentityForce look to include in the future?
In a highly competitive industry, I’m reluctant to divulge any of the exciting new products and features we plan to launch in the coming months and years. However, we do plan to roll out our services internationally in the near future, which is something we’re excited about. IdentityForce will always be evolving to meet the changing needs of our members and leading the charge in the fight against identity theft.
What do you think identity theft will look like in 5 years?
With the explosion of artificial intelligence, I expect many first and second-generation applications will have rampant vulnerabilities. Also, baby boomers will be reaching peak retirement age. We will see a massive influx of social security and Medicaid recipients and should expect to see a staggering rise in fraud related to these funds.
There are over four billion indexed pages on the Web, but the growth of the Dark Web will explode as more breaches break, while the value of sensitive information increases. It’s not a matter of if your personal information is on the Dark Web, but how much of it is there being bought and sold.
In addition, with the rise and proliferation of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, expect to see more hacks that pilfer Internet dollars.
Where do you go to stay current with the latest industry news and trends?
I follow a combination of leading publications in the security space, thought leaders and influencers in our industry and those of our customers. The Identity Theft Resource Center is very useful for consumers and business leaders.
Who is your mentor and what have you learned from them?
George H. Marcus, who served as the Executive Director of the overnight camp where I went annually for 11 years, is someone I really admired. For each of those summers, spanning eight weeks at a time, Mr. Marcus made a profound impact not only on the lives of thousands of campers and their families but he was also a driving influence in my life. Described as a man who, “ruled with an iron hand in a velvet glove,” Mr. Marcus’ unwavering commitment to the children of the camp made a forever impression on me.
While serving as Executive Director, Mr. Marcus helped mold me into the man and CEO I am today. He taught me about loyalty, business ethics, and how to be an empathetic and caring leader. He also really helped to drive my competitive spirit and a “pay it forward” mentality. As I grew up, I remained close to Mr. Marcus – our families getting together for dinner regularly.
In 2009, Mr. Marcus passed away. Soon after, me and my wife, Michelle, who also attended the same camp, would bring our baby daughter, whom Mr. Marcus never met, to visit his widow every Halloween, as our first stop.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love to spend as much time as possible sharing fun experiences with my family. Skiing, golfing and watching Boston sports are some of my favorite pastimes.
Thank you so much Steven for taking the time to share your insights with us!
What questions do you have about identity theft protection or, more specifically, IdentityForce?