CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is urging consumers to monitor their credit card and banking statements closely as home-improvement retailer Home Depot continues to investigate a data breach.
“Our office is very concerned any time a business reports it may have been the victim of a data breach, and we will do all we can to ensure West Virginia consumers are protected,” Morrisey said in a press release. “Data breaches are dangerous and may result in personal identifying information getting in the wrong hands.
"As a result, consumers must take steps to protect themselves against scammers and identity thieves.”
Morrisey offered the following tips for consumers who shopped at Home Depot this spring and summer when the possible breach may have happened:
* Monitor your bank account and credit card statements to detect unauthorized charges.
* Immediately report any unauthorized purchases or withdrawals immediately to local law enforcement and your financial institution, and then contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office. Consumers also should report the crime to the Federal Trade Commission.
* Place a fraud alert on your credit report. This free alert lasts for 90 days and makes it harder for someone to open a line of credit in your name. To place the alert, call one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax 1-800-525-6285, Experian 1-888-397-3742, and TransUnion 1-800-680-7289.
* If that isn’t enough, place a security freeze on your credit report, by sending a letter requesting the freeze to the three credit agencies by using certified mail, return receipt requested. This freeze puts a lock on your credit so third parties cannot access any information about you.
The freeze costs $5 plus postal fees for each credit agency and lasts until you lift them. If you lift the freeze for a credit check, to open a new credit card, take out a loan or to make a large purchase such as a home or car, then want to put your accounts back under the freeze you must pay the fees again.
* Make sure you check your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. Consumers are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.
“Credit card and identity theft is a very serious matter that impacts our citizens who may not realize they have been victimized until it’s too late,” Morrisey said.
Home Depot has stores in Barboursville, Bridgeport, Charleston, Hurricane, Ranson and Vienna.
Those who believe they have been a victim of identity theft are asked to call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808 and the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 or go online to www.ftc.gov/idtheft.