News of another huge data breach last week was most unwelcome. Home Depot notified the public of the breach, which may end up being even larger than the Target incident back in December. The eventual cost to Home Depot has been predicted to be hundreds of millions. The cost to consumers cannot be measured in mere dollars. Of course the monetary effect may end up being significant but there is also the price of the consumer’s loss of confidence in our digital credit card system.
The current rate of identity fraud for U.S. consumers is 1 in 4. Thieves are able to steal our private information through a variety of means, including large scale data breaches like Home Depot’s, computer malware secretly installed on digital devices, password theft, scam emails and even by sorting through discarded snail mail. It is more important than ever for consumers to be vigilant and proactive in their efforts to protect themselves.
Dealing with the Home Depot breach
Customers of Home Depot who used a debit or credit card there from April to the present may have been victimized by the recent breach. Reportedly there has been a related upswing in fraudulent ATM withdrawals by data thieves who first change the PIN on the cards, then make the illicit ATM withdrawals using them, all done with information stolen from Home Depot.
The store is offering free identity protection services to its customers, including credit monitoring. Visit their website at homedepot.com, or call 1-800 HOMEDEPOT (466-3337) for details about the offer. Your BBB highly recommends that you take advantage of this offer if you shopped at Home Depot using your debit or credit card.
What to do if you’re a victim
Here is BBB’s advice for those who have had their data compromised by scammers:
• Stay calm and remember that you are not liable for fraudulent charges on stolen account numbers.
• Go to the store’s website only by searching for it with your browser – not by clicking on a link in an email or social media message. Such emails and messages can be fraudulent even if they look legitimate. Scammers attempt to use high profile data breach cases as opportunities to exploit people’s fears, sending emails that offer “to help” those who have been victimized. The intent is to doubly victimize you by phishing for your account information.
• Call the customer service number on your card if you have questions.
• Put a credit freeze or an alert on your credit report with all three of the major credit reporting agencies, thereby preventing anyone from accessing your credit report or scores.
• Carefully monitor your credit card statement online. Immediately report fraudulent charges. Save your receipts.
• Debit cards require even more meticulous monitoring since they have fewer protections than credit cards. Remember that a debit card withdraws money directly from your bank account, not just from a credit card account.
As more high profile data breaches make the headlines, it becomes increasingly vital that consumers cultivate good habits about monitoring their accounts. The incidents serve as reminders to us all about being cautious credit and debit card customers. If you have questions or concerns about data breaches and identity theft, contact your Better Business Bureau at (800) 856-2417, or visit our website at bbbinc.org.