Submitted by Rachel R on Fri, 09/19/2014 - 9:54am
The Home Depot suffered the largest data breach ever! Protect yourself.
Image source: Flickr User Mie Mozart
Today we have news about another major data breach that could put your credit and/or debit card information at risk. The Home Depot was hit by a major data breach that means you could be facing fraud if the data thieves use your stolen info to rack up charges and try to leave you to pay the bills. This data breach is alleged to have been perpetrated by the same group that hacked Target's payment system just before Christmas last year.
This time, the scammers hacked data that contained account information on more than 56 million. This surpassed even the Target hack to make it the largest breach of a retailer's computer network ever. The hack took place back in April, but The Home Depot still hadn't located the source of the breach even after the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service notified the home store giant in July that they suspected an attack. The source was malware (a malicious software program that hides and steals data) and The Home Depot says the leak has been shored up and all systems are now safe.
The Home Depot's chief executive Frank Blake said, “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and anxiety this has caused and want to reassure them that they will not be liable for fraudulent charges.” The Home Depot is offering free credit monitoring and free identity protection services to any customers that have used their credit or debit card with the home store since April 2014 as a proactive measure. On September 8, at the same time the retailer officially announced the breach, they also announced that new enhanced encryption had been implemented to prevent a repeat.
The Department of Homeland Security has issued a report saying that many other retailers may be unknowing victims of this type of malware called “Backoff” that puts your credit and debit card information at risk. This means that every time you swipe, you are taking a chance. Some of the Home Depot data breach victims have had hundreds of dollars of fraudulent charges hit their account although the retailer has been reimbursing victims. Here are some ways you can protect yourself from a potential data breach:
#1 Run your debit card as a credit transaction
Because the malware records keystrokes, when you type in your PIN number, that can be stolen along with your card number which makes it much easier for fraudsters to access your cash. They can even print a duplicate card and take money out at the ATM. Most self-swipe terminals offer you the option to choose credit over debit. You may have to click “change payment” or ask the cashier to run it as a credit charge. If you need cash back, get it at the ATM instead so you don't have to enter your PIN.
#2 Pay with cash or PayPal instead
Many retailers now offer the option, both online and in stores, to pay via PayPal. This eliminates the need to swipe your card or enter any payment information. When you click to pay with PayPal, you get an extra layer of encryption from PayPal that protects your information more securely than most retailers. The Home Depot accepts PayPal at the register. Expect to see more retailers accept this form of payment in the future. And cash is always an old school, safe option.
#3 Watch out for scams related to breaches
In the wake of scams, fraudsters look to take advantage of scared consumers. If you get an email from The Home Depot offering you fraud protection or telling you that your data may have been breached, ignore it. Any notification that offers you a link to click could be a trap that installs malware onto your computer to steal even more info. Instead, contact the North Carolina Department of Justice or The Home Depot directly if you think you were a victim of the breach.
#4 Monitor your accounts frequently
There are many of us that don't look closely at our bank and credit card statements. This is a huge mistake. You should always review these monthly. If you regularly use your debit card, you may want to monitor it online once a week and any time your balance seems to drop without explanation. Because you only have a short window of time to report fraud, and it's even shorter on debit cards, you need to keep a good eye on your money.
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