Staples, the popular office supply store is the latest major retailer to be hacked and suffer a data breach. As I have written many times before, including in a column for USA Today in which I wrote about the data breaches following the same pattern each time, the news about the Staples data breach is in the early stage where the company announces that it is investigating what it calls a “potential” credit and debit card breach. As I indicated in my USA Today column, http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/09/27/hacking-target-home-depot-credit-card/16221427/ this is because the retailer generally does not discover that it has been hacked until banks monitoring fraudulent credit card use notice a pattern of fraudulent card use that lead back to the source of the stolen credit card and debit cards, which in this case was some Staples stores. Ironically, earlier in the day before it announced the “potential” data breach, Staples announced that the Staples App would work with Apple Pay, the new pay by phone App in the iPhone 6. Greater use of pay by phone and smart credit cards with chips would dramatically reduce the problems caused by the epidemic of data breaches targeting magnetic strip credit card and debit cards used throughout the United States.
At the moment, we don’t yet know how long the Staples data breach, which initially appears to have been limited to stores in the Northeastern United States has been going on. Certainly if you have shopped at a Staples store in the last six months you should carefully review your credit card statements and monitor your account carefully. As always, I urge you not to use your debit card for retail purchases because of the greater risk of serious financial harm when compared to using a debit card which provides greater consumer protection. As more information about this data breach becomes known, I will let you know.