While the recent data breaches suffered by both Home Depot and, on a far smaller scale, Jimmy John’s sandwich shops are deeply unfortunate incidents, it’s worth noting that there’s a lesson to be learned. It’s estimated by Slate that over 56 million different customers had their credit or debit cards compromised at The Home Depot between April and September, while Consumerist reports that 216 different Jimmy John’s franchises were hacked over a period of multiple months. Steps are being taken by both businesses and external financial institutions to neutralize the damage as quickly as possible, but it’s said that the data stolen from Home Depot alone could account for over $3 billion in illegal purchases. Of course, you may be wondering what this sort of consumer-driven breach could possibly have to do with home security. Consider the following ways that you can greatly reduce your risk of identity theft or financial danger through simple practices in your own home:
The digital nature of these massive-scale crimes makes it easy to write them off as inevitabilities in our increasingly technological world. This sort of thought process is particularly understandable when one considers the fact that most banks offer fraud protection and reimbursement against these charges. Still, it’s important that we realize it is within our control to minimize personal risk of having our information stolen. One of the simplest ways to protect ourselves is to ensure that we dispose of all financial documents properly. Consider investing in a shredder for both your home and your office and destroying any documents containing personal or financial information before discarding them. Or perhaps better still, you can switch all of your bills and financial statements to digital form. This method of delivery is far more direct and removes any paper trail that could fall into the wrong hands.
In most financial identity theft cases, it’s incredibly beneficial to be able to notify your bank of any potentially fraudulent activity as soon as possible. While it seems like a bit of extra effort on your part, it’s worth taking a few moments every couple of days to run a Google News search for the merchants that you regularly shop with. This way, you’ll know if there’s any chance your information has been compromised early on and be able to respond accordingly. In the case of the Jimmy John’s data breach, the sandwich shop’s corporate offices posted a list of compromised stores and the dates they were affected online, allowing customers to check if they were at risk.
Monitor your credit
While most people have a general idea of whether or not their credit score is any good, they also don’t monitor their credit very carefully. Subscribe to a credit reporting service, whether through an external agency or a financial institution with which you’re already a customer. Check these reports monthly to determine if there’s any strange occurrences taking place without your knowledge. Small changes, such as alterations in billing addresses, credit scores or purchase history, can often indicate that your financial security may be at risk. In the event that you do notice something out of the ordinary or inexplicable, contact your financial institutions immediately and have your cards shut down and reissued.