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Consumer tips provided following latest data breach

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Updated: 9/03 5:38 pm

ALBANY, N.Y. - Word has started to spread that a cyber security breach has taken place at the retailer Home Depot.

The store itself has not confirmed the breach has happened, but says it is admitting to suspicious behavior and telling customers to be on high alert. 

But whether it is Target, Home Depot, or PF Changs, security experts say cyber breaches are becoming more and more common in our technological society. Those experts say the threat of cybercrimes shouldn't steer you from shopping online or from using credit cards--it's just up to the consumer to be smart and safe about how it does it.

Reg Harnish with Grey Castle Security has worked in the cyber security field for more than 10 years. He says that while news of a possible Home Depot security breach may be the most recent, this sort of crime happens all the time.

"Potentially the point of sale devices were compromised, or potentially cyber criminals got in to the environment at Home Depot we able to pull credit card or debit card information there,” he said.

Before cutting up credit cards or vowing to only use cash again, Harnish says there is another way to stay safe, like changing passwords every 90 days and keeping a different password for every account. Additionally, he says that many websites now offer a double point of entry to help people with stolen passwords out of their information. 

"When you log into Facebook, it can send a code to your phone that you have to type in and then it has a couple more pieces of information--so for cyber criminals those websites become a lot harder to compromise,” says Harnish.

Further, he says people should always keep an eye on their accounts for fraudulent claims, weeks, months even years after a breach.

“This is not a one and done situation, you need to be checking your statements all the time, every time, and it's just good practice," he explains.

Though Harnish agrees that all of these steps may seem a little tedious, he says answering a few extra questions and eyeing accounts is just part of a new reality in our digital world.

“Cybercrime and cyber security is here to stay and you just need to get used to it and do something different,” Harnish said.

Harnish also notes that it's better to use credit cards because it is easier to file fraudulent claims with the company than it is with banks when using a debit card.

Home Depot's corporate office has released a full statement about the alleged breach:

"We're looking into some unusual activity that might indicate a possible payment data breach and we're working with our banking partners and law enforcement to investigate.  We know that this news may be concerning and we apologize for the worry this can create.  If we confirm a breach has occurred, we will make sure our customers are notified immediately.  For now, you should know the following:

First, you will not be responsible for any possible fraudulent charges.  The financial institution that issued your card or Home Depot are responsible for those charges should we confirm a breach.

Make sure you are closely monitoring your accounts and reach out to your card issuer should you notice any unusual activity.

If we confirm a breach, we will offer free identity protection services, including credit monitoring, to any potentially impacted customers.

We're working hard to get you the information you need as quickly as possible and will continue to provide updates as we learn more.

If you have any questions, please call Home Depot Customer Care at 1-800-HOMEDEPOT (1-800-466-3337)."

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