Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Home Depot (and the World) Leave us Exposed

   The good people at the Home Depot headquarters in Atlanta confirmed on Monday that its computer systems were hacked into and that everyone who made purchases in stores since April of this year possibly had their card number and information stolen. This includes me and probably many of you. While it is not yet known how many consumers were affected by the breach, this story follows others just like it from Neiman Marcus, P.F. Chang’s, and Target. The Target crime affected some 70 million customers and has so far cost the company $146 million, according to the Washington Post.
   Clark Howard is an Atlanta celebrity and expert in the world of finance and common-sense living. He writes extensively on things you should know and do when it comes to protecting your accounts and your credit. Here are summaries of five of those things:

  1. Expect news of more breaches for the next 2 years - It will take at least that long for US banks to make the switch, which they could have done decades ago, to a safer process for cards. The retailers (Target, Home Depot, or anybody else) are not at fault here. The blame lies with the banks.
  2. Know the difference between debit vs. credit cards - Debit cards don't have the normal protections under federal law offered by a credit card. With a breached debit card, you have only 2 days after you notice that money is gone from your account, or else your liability rises to $500 or beyond.
  3. Watch your bank statements carefully - Go through your credit card and debit card statements this month and next month with a fine tooth comb. Identify any false charges and dispute them immediately with your bank or credit card company.
  4. Be on the lookout for email or phone scams - Be wary of anyone calling or emailing you trying to impersonate a breached retailer or your bank. When in doubt, hang up the phone or close out the email. Then call your bank or visit the merchant website to verify the legitimacy of the request.
  5. Limit the risks from debit cards by setting up a separate account - Customers who use debit cards are hit hardest by any breach. If you wish to continue using debit in the future, be sure you tie it into a separate account that's only used for debit transactions. You can read more of all of this on his website,

I especially like what Howard says first; expect that breaches will continue to happen. The truth is, the moment we choose to engage in the world we put ourselves at risk. This risk goes far beyond swiping our cards. We risk our bodies, our feelings, our hopes, our spirits, our closest relationships, and the list goes on. Jesus finishes a parable in Luke 19 with this line, "'The person that uses what he has will get more. But the person that does not use what he has will have everything taken away from him." Risk is necessary.  People who are overly concerned about security and consistency are likely to miss amazing opportunities that present themselves in our path. To be a disciple of Jesus is to take risks - but when it comes to your bank account, take some protections, too.
   Grace and Peace, Scott

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