Taking precautions after Home Depot’s credit card breach


Home Depot acknowledged in September that it had suffered a credit card data breach involving customers who bought merchandise at its stores in Canada and the U.S. from April to September.

In a statement on its website, Home Depot says it is upgrading the security of its payment systems, will offer assistance to customers who suffer fraud problems related to the breach, and is providing 12 months of credit monitoring for free through the Equifax credit bureau.

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I’ve found Home Depot to be up front about the problem, acknowledging that it stumbled, and putting its “message to our customers” about the breach in the most prominent spot of its main web page, instead of tucking it away in a corner.

Most of my hardware shopping is at a locally-owned store down the street from our house. But I occasionally shopped at Home Depot over the summer, so I’m among their affected customers.

Signing up for the Equifax monitoring service was straightforward, if a little mysterious.

There was initially an invitation to phone Equifax at a toll-free number to enroll in monitoring. I hesitated, deciding to wait until I had an hour or so of free time in case I was put on hold. About 56 million card numbers could be involved, so I was guessing the line would be busy. A few days later, an email address appeared where I could send a request. All that was needed was my name.

I sent my name, and didn’t hear back for four days. There was no immediate robot-generated acknowledgement. On the fourth days, an email arrived with a redemption code to sign up for an Equifax monitoring product that usually costs $15 a month. I guess it took a while for them to confirm that I was indeed a customer.

As a way of confirming my identity, the Equifax sign-up process included several detailed questions about my finances, drawn from Equifax’s records about me. I managed to answer those questions and was assigned a service that includes alerts if anyone makes inquiries about my credit worthiness or tries to get a loan or credit card in my name.

So, having that monitoring is a bit reassuring. I’m also checking my credit card transactions several times a week to make sure there’s nothing untoward, and have activated text alerts to be sent to my phone whenever I make a purchase.

The joys of modern commerce.

That new Apple Pay system, using fingerprint authorization, is beginning to look attractive. (It rolls out in a limited way in October in the U.S. only; no indication of when or if it will appear in Canada.)

Home Depot’s statement about what happened.

How to sign up for Home Depot’s monitoring offer.

Krebs on Security has detailed coverage of the Home Depot data breach.

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