DES MOINES, Iowa — First it was major retailers including Target, Neiman Marcus, and P.F. Chang’s.
Now it appears that Home Depot and potentially millions of customers are the latest victims of a major security breach regarding their payment information.
So far Home Depot is only saying it is investigating a possible payment data breach and isn’t saying when the breach began or how many customers have been affected.
“It’s a reason for concern,” said Rick Gaede, a shopper from Des Moines.
While recent security breaches are eye opening, Gaede isn’t getting rid of his debit card but says he is using it more responsibly.
“I check my account every day, at least once a day,” Gaede told Channel 13 News.
It’s hard to blame him for keeping his cards around. These days, one swipe is all it takes to make a purchase.
Doug Jacobson, a computer engineering professor at Iowa State University says all of that convenience has created a big business for hackers.
“Hackers have figured out how to make money,” said Jacobson.
For nearly two decades, Jacobson has trained students for careers in cyber defense.
“Defending against a computer hacker is an unfair game. You have to be right 100% of the time. They just have to get lucky or find a hole once,” Jacobson told Channel 13 News.
Since breaches are no longer a matter of if, but when, Jacobson offers three pieces of advice to consumers.
“Pay attention to the bills and statements that you see and watch for those small transactions,” said Jacobson.
Small transactions like an iTunes purchase are often how hackers test if a card is still active.
Jacobson also recommends getting a separate credit card with a small balance for online shopping instead of using a debit card directly linked to a bank account.
Finally, consumers should consider cash at places like drive-up windows or restaurants.
“The debit card, I’d be very reluctant to ever let it leave your hands,” said Jacobson.
Home Depot says it will be responsible for any fraudulent charges related to this breach and the company also plans to offer free credit tracking for people who have been affected.
There are reports saying this breach could affect more customers than the Target breach earlier this year.
Iowa State University is hosting an event to help consumers protect themselves from having their debit card or personal information compromised.
More information on the event can be found here.