I have been reporting to you since 2014 about the massive data breach at Home Depot that affected as many as 56 million Home Depot customers between April and September of 2014. A class action on behalf of the victims was settled in 2016 and I reported to you at that time as to what you needed to do to receive compensation if you were affected by the data breach. Now Home Depot has reached a separate settlement of a legal action brought against it by the Attorneys General for 46 states plus the District of Columbia. As a result of the settlement, Home Depot will upgrade its seurity procedures and hire a chief information security officer as well as pay 17.5 million dollars.
Similar to the major data breach at Target which occurred a year earlier, Home Depot’s computers and credit card processing equipment were hacked when a third party party vendor’s computers were hacked thereby enabling the hackers to steal the passwords necessary for the third party vendor to access Home Depot’s computers.
Data breaches are a common occurence and a constant reminder that regardless of how careful you may be as to you security, you are only as safe and secure as the weakest places where you do business or who have your records. Greater use of EMV smart chip credit cards will reduce the effects of data breaches aimed at gaining credit card and debit card information at brick and mortar stores, but many stores still have not shifted over to the new equipment required to process EMV smart chip credit cards. Additionally, your chip card does not protect you when shopping online.
Do not use your debit card for retail purchases. Limit its use to ATMs. There are strong laws to protect you from fraudulent use of your credit card, but the laws protecting you from liability in the event of fraudulent use of your debit card are not as strong and you potentially risk losing your entire bank account to which the card is attached. In addition, even if you report the fraudulent use of your debit card immediately, your bank will freeze your account while it investigates the breach which can be very inconvenient if you need immediate cash or have bills automatically paid from your account.
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