numb to data breachesWhen the news broke a little over a year ago about the massive Target data breach, it was all anyone could talk about. The timing couldn’t have been worse for the popular retailer — the breach itself occurred during the busiest weeks of the holiday shopping season and was discovered just a few days before Christmas. Data breaches aren’t new, but the size and scale of this breach and its poor timing hit a nerve. Over the course of the year since Target’s breach was discovered, countless retailers, restaurant chains, financial institutions and even the U.S. government have experienced similar intrusions. Security bloggers have had a field day with each data breach discovery, but to the average person they may seem to blend into one another.

Have we become numb to data breaches?

The answer to this question is probably, yes. Who could blame the average citizen? Security breaches are always a big deal, but when anything happens repeatedly over a short period of time, people are bound to grow used to it. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there have been nearly 700 data breaches in the United States so far in 2014. This number is up more than 25% from this time last year. Most of these breaches (79%) happened within the business sector — Home Depot, Sally Beauty, Dairy Queen, etc. — but there were also significant data breaches in government, health care, banking and education.

Many of these incidents have been reported within weeks or even days of one another. Data breaches have become so commonplace that there is now a standardized response that most businesses offer to affected customers. This response includes reminding people that they are not responsible for fraudulent charges, in the case of a breach that reveals payment information, as well as offering free identity theft protection to those affected. With even businesses seeming to grow complacent, given their cookie-cutter responses, it’s easy to become numb to data breaches yourself.

Why it’s important to remain vigilant

We live in a world where tons of private data is just waiting to be snatched up by the wrong person. Retailers have learned a painful lesson over the past year that their security systems are outdated, and most are working to replace or improve those systems as quickly as possible. When a new breach occurs, even if you have already been affected by another breach, it is important to take measures to protect yourself.

Not all breaches are alike. Home Depot’s breach exposed the payment card information of millions of its customers, while JPMorgan Chase’s breach exposed customers’ phone numbers, emails and mailing addresses. Depending on what information is stolen in a breach, the necessary response for you as a victim may vary. If your credit card number is not stolen, then it wouldn’t make sense to request a new card from your credit card company. If your phone number isn’t exposed, you might not need to be so worried about an increase in scammer phone calls. It is important to know what you’re up against in order to properly protect yourself.

Identity theft protection is always valuable. The mere fact that data breaches are so prevalent — and continuously on the rise — is evidence that protecting your identity is vital. One of the best ways you can ensure your information is protected, no matter what kind of mayhem identity thieves might be causing, is to sign up for identity theft protection service. These services offer peace of mind and help you stay on top of your identity and credit. Most of the top-rated services provide updated credit reports and scores, as well as monitor your personal information on the Internet black market and public records. Even better, most plans cost less than $20/month, and you can find plans to protect your entire family.

It might be tempting to let your guard down and become numb to data breaches, but you owe it to yourself to keep aware of what’s going on around you. To learn more about how identity theft protection services can help make this easier, visit our identity theft protection services review page. Keep following NextAdvisor’s identity theft blog for updates on new data breaches and tips for how to protect yourself.