As much as I would like to give out a sigh of relief that I don’t shop at Home Depot, I just can’t. While it’s likely that Home Depot has been breached, it’s only one store of many. I shop at its competitor Lowe’s and Sam’s and restaurants and various other services. In the last 10 months we’ve seen several vendors release statements that they have been breached. From Target to Dairy Queen to Goodwill to UPS to Home Depot and several other stores in between. The latest threat to my financial security is the places I shop.
Last month the U.S. government has warned that over 1,000 companies have had their point-of-sale systems compromised with malware intent on stealing credit and debit card information. I shopped at Target during the three weeks they got breached and had to have my card replaced. I’ve managed to dodge the bullet since then, but I expect that at some within the next year I’ll be calling my bank again for a new credit card.
What can be done?
Since it’s not feasible to stop shopping at local stores, here are some of the things that I try to do to protect myself from breaches that could put my financial well-being at risk.
Use a credit card instead of a debit card
Anywhere I shop, be it online or offline, I always try to use a credit card. If my credit card gets stolen in one of these breaches, criminals will have access to by credit line, not my personal bank account. I feel much more confident that I can get the charges on my credit card dropped with less stress and much less hassle than trying to recover money from my drained bank account.
Check your statements
Whether it is credit card or a debit card, I try to keep an eye on my bank statements. At least once a week I will login to my bank account and go through my credit card and checking account statements. Any rogue transactions get reported with the simple click of a button (your bank process may vary). I’ve benefited from this by also finding a couple transactions that a vendor had billed me twice for.
When I go through my bank statements, I am double checking every transaction, not just foreign transactions. Banks have alerts and alarms setup for transactions outside of a customer’s geographical area. Criminals have adjusted to this tactic and now sell and buy cards within a person’s geographical, which make it much tougher for banks to identify credit cards that may have been stolen.
Until companies that we buy from improve the security of their systems my financial well-being and your financial well-being will be at high risk of being compromised. We must remain vigilant in doing what we can to protect it.