The most recent attack against home improvement giant Home Depot may perhaps be the biggest credit card breach by a retailer yet, even surpassing the unprecedented attack against Target late last year. The 2,200 store chain confirmed recently that the attack may have gone as far back as April, and affected consumers who used their credit and debit stores at one of the locations. Though it is suspected that this is perhaps the biggest data security breach that a retailer has ever seen, the reach of most recent attack is not yet known. In light of the breach, five states—California, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, and Iowa—have launched a probes investigating the massive attack.
The home improvement retailer said that it first became aware of a possible security breach early this month and hired cyber security experts to confirm. Once confirmed, Home Depot informed its customers and advised them to review their statements for unusual charges, stating that the consumers would not be responsible for any fraudulent charges made to their accounts. BillGuard, a credit protection firm that supplies up to date information to its subscribers if and when a questionable transaction occurs, stated that the average fraudulent charge amount from the Home Depot accounts is about $332. However, the company says that some customers are reporting charges a little as $5, while others are reporting fraudulent charges in the thousands. In any event, consumers should keep a lookout for small miniscule charges. These charges could be thieves testing whether the card number is valid before selling it on the black market.
The initial estimates of the breach were thought to be around $50 million, but analysts with BillGuard are now estimating the damage to be around $3 billion. Surprisingly, consumers are taking news of the breach pretty well. Unlike the Target attack last year around Christmas time, Home Depot’s breach came months after the busy springtime home improvement season. Analysts say that after Target’s breach its sales and business declined drastically right around its peak season, but are not expecting to see the same decrease in this case. Hopefully, the recent probe by the multi-state investigators will pinpoint how and why these data breaches are occurring and what retailers and consumers can do to protect themselves. For more tips on protecting your identity, check out our blog.