Bigger Than Target? What To Do NOW If You Shopped At Home Depot

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We support reforms to the financial marketplace that protect consumers from unscrupulous banks and lenders.

By Consumers Union on Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

If  you shopped at a Home Depot store between April 2014 and now, you may be at risk.

The retailer confirmed earlier this week that it suffered a massive data breach. It appears that crooks have stolen shoppers’ payment card and personal information, which means that shoppers at its stores in the U.S. and Canada may be at risk of fraud. (The retailer says consumers that used its website are not affected.)

Some observers are warning that the Home Depot breach could be even bigger than late 2013’s Target breach – and that one affected nearly one in three Americans.

So what should you do if you shopped at Home Depot in the last five months? Here’s our advice:

At the very least: watch your accounts.

Your first line of defense is to know what’s going on with your money:

  •  Keep a close eye on transactions hitting your accounts.
  • Report fishy transactions immediately.
  • You can find the phone number to report suspicious activity is on the back of your payment card, or on your statements or on your financial service provider’s website.

And, if you used your debit card, get a replacement – now.

Call or visit the bank to request a new card ASAP if you shopped at Home Depot any time since April of this year.

Why? Because security expert Brian Krebs, who first broke news of the breach, reports that fraudsters have apparently figured out how to re-set PINs.

This means that fraudsters who’ve made counterfeit debit cards out of stolen account numbers can use those fake cards at real ATMs to take out cash. In other words, you are not only at risk of having your card number used to buy things, but also a crook could use a fake card to empty your account.

  • Cancel your old one and get a new one ASAP.
  • You may also want to ask your bank to expedite debit card replacement if you are worried about being without access to cash or another payment card for up to one week or more, which is how long it can take to get a new card.
  • Watch out: there may be a fee for expedited shipping. Ask your bank to waive any fee. They don’t have to, but they might.

 You may also want replace your credit cards.

Replacing your credit card can be a simple way to avoid fishy charges on your account. It can be as easy as calling your card provider to cancel your old card issue you a new one.

If you change your debit or credit card, don’t forget about any recurring charges you had set up.

If you have bills automatically paid via your credit or debit cards, you will probably need to update those bills with your new card number(s). That way you don’t incur fees if companies expecting payments don’t get them because your card number doesn’t work.

Consider signing up for free credit monitoring, but don’t let it lull you into a false sense of security.

Home Depot, like Target and other retailers, is offering free credit monitoring. Credit monitoring is an ongoing review of your credit history by a third party.

You can take other steps to protect yourself from identity theft. See our additional advice here.

Thieves target retailers because they’ve learned that it’s a lot easier and more lucrative to steal payment information than to rob a bank in person.

Banks and retailers need to recognize that it’s past time for safer payment technologies like smart cards. And lawmakers need to act to make every way to pay safe by ensuring that the consumer same protections apply to credit, debit, prepaid and mobile payments.

Have you had a payment card compromised? Tell us about it in the comments.  

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