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Staples Investigating Data Breach: What Should You Do?

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Staples stores in the northeastern U.S. may have been hit by a malware attack compromising an unknown number of customer credit and debit cards, security blogger Brian Krebs reported Oct. 20. Krebs’ sources in the banking industry told him of a pattern of fraud indicating a data breach that appeared to affect some stores in Pennsylvania, New York City and New Jersey.

What You Should Know

While Staples hasn’t yet confirmed a breach, a Staples spokesman told media outlets the company is investigating “a potential issue involving credit card data,” and if a problem were confirmed, consumers would not be responsible for fraudulent charges reported “in a timely manner.”

There are more than 1,800 Staples locations in North America, but the fraud detected thus far is limited to a small number of stores in the Northeast.

How to Respond

Given the limited information available, the best thing consumers can do is monitor their credit and debit card transactions for unauthorized activity, and if something suspicious surfaces, immediately report it to your bank or card issuer. Depending on how quickly you report fraud and what your card agreement says about fraud liability, you may be responsible for some unauthorized transactions, which is why it’s crucial to act quickly.

In the case of any data breach, you may need to have your card replaced, particularly if your debit card was compromised. (Not only are you more likely to be responsible for debit card fraud, it also means you’ll be missing money from your checking account until you’re made whole, which may temporarily leave you without cash you need.) The threat of the breach doesn’t end when your card is replaced: Wherever you use that card — especially if you use it to make a recurring payment — you need to update your payment information and avoid missing bills or getting hit with late fees.

Checking your credit scores should be another part of your action plan after a data breach, because credit card fraud can damage your credit standing. Say a thief runs up a high balance on your credit card, or you miss a bill payment because you received a new card: Those things could be reported to the credit bureaus and ding your score. Watch out for signs of fraud by getting two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

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