A wise man once told me that difficult thoughts are like wild monkeys. And I’ve discovered that now and again you need a Wild Monkey Contingency Plan just to get some peace.
It’s been one of those weeks, and my house is full of wild monkeys. Obviously, I don’t mean literal wild monkeys (thank goodness), but metaphorical monkeys.
Just imagine for a moment that you are sitting trying to work – maybe you are trying to finish an assignment, write letters, blog posts, or even complete paid work. Then someone releases a monkey into the room. It will screech for one thing, and it will leap about, and it will be very distracting. And of course you want your peace and quiet, so naturally, you chase it and try to shoo it out. And that just agitates it more, so it screeches louder and leaps even more. A lot of mental clutter is like that.
But imagine if you just noted that it was there and left it alone. It would find somewhere to sit, and as it didn’t feel threatened it would quieten down. It might stroll around looking at things (and stealing your bananas) but it won’t be in your face, preventing you from getting anything done. Ignoring the monkey has taken away its power to disturb you.
But as I say, my house is full of wild monkeys:
- I’ve got a bunch of deadlines.
- I haven’t heard back about my transplant biopsy yet.
- My eye still feels gritty from the cataract surgery.
- I think I’m coming down with a cold.
- I’ve been caught up in the PageUp security breach and don’t know if my personal data was stolen.
It’s a lot to think about, and it’s not easy to stay calm about all that, and my new activity tracker thinks I need to chill out (not sure how it figures that out).
Managing Wild Monkeys
Some of my wild monkeys I can easily handle, for example, putting some drops in my eyes, and slipping into cold prevention mode.
Other monkeys can be managed, by ringing my nephrologist to see what’s going on (first thing tomorrow) or recalculating my priorities.
But that last wild monkey… Well, there isn’t anything I can do about that one, that one’s gone. PageUp recommends – changing my passwords, enabling multifactor authentication, installing anti-virus software, updating all my existing software and monitoring my email for spam and phishing.
Which is fine, but I’m a little more concerned about my potentially stolen identity data.
That wild monkey needs a Contingency Plan.
Wild Monkey Contingency Plan
A contingency plan is like a risk management plan, except you don’t take any action to prevent the risk. They are particularly useful in situations where the outcome will be stressful or traumatic, and you may not be able to think clearly.
Develop Your Contingency Plan
Your contingency plan is essentially a to-do list of actions to take as soon as you become aware that your risk has come to pass.
In this case, I’m concerned that my identity data was stolen, so:
- Notify the police; start with the local and take their advice on any further reporting required.
- Notify my existing banks of fraudulent activity.
- Get copies of my credit reports and if necessary, request a credit ban.
- Dispute any new debts and lodge a complaint with the credit provider.
Develop Your Trigger Criteria
There’s no point having a plan if you don’t know when to implement (or execute) it.
In this case, I’ll be looking for evidence that my identity has in fact been stolen. Things like:
- Items in my credit card statements I didn’t buy.
- Bills or statements for new accounts I didn’t open.
- Debt collection actions for debts that aren’t mine.
In a different life, I could be refused government benefits or mobile phone contracts too.
When I see one or more of these triggers taking place, I know it’s time to put the plan into action.
Closing Out Your Contingency Plan
Some plans (e.g., dealing with storm damage) will reach a point where the risk has passed, or you have reached the end of your contingency plan, and the risk event has been successfully dealt with.
In those situations, you can stop watching for your triggers. Depending on your risk, you might choose to revise your plan and prepare for the next possible occurrence of the risk.
But in some cases, like identity theft, you can’t relax your vigilance. You must continue to monitor your statements and credit reports. Though these days, it’s a good idea to be doing that as a matter of course.
Do you have any contingencies you should be planning for?
Edited 7/7/2018: See Cassandra Cross’s new article Another day, another data breach – what to do when it happens to you has more on this.