Half of Holiday Shoppers Say They'll Avoid Stores That Got Hacked, Survey Finds

Half of Holiday Shoppers Say They'll Avoid Stores That Got Hacked

As another holiday shopping frenzy nears, a new survey suggests that many consumers plan to avoid the growing number of retailers that have been hacked.

Nearly half of people -- 45 percent -- say they would “definitely not" or "probably not” shop this holiday season at retailers like Target or Home Depot that acknowledged computer breaches exposed customer credit card data, according to a survey released Monday by CreditCards.com.

In addition, 48 percent said they are more likely to use cash more often this holiday season out of concern over the numerous cyberattacks against retailers, according to the survey of 865 credit and debit card holders.

“It’s a clear sign that people are at least somewhat concerned about shopping in a place that has had a data breach,” said Matt Schulz, a senior industry analyst at Creditcards.com.

The holiday season is typically the busiest time of the year for retailers, and this season comes amid heightened concern that they are unprepared to fight off hackers who have stolen credit card data from millions of their customers this year.

At the peak of last season -- from Nov. 27 to Dec. 15 -- hackers stole credit and debit card data belonging to 40 million Target shoppers. The fallout from the data breach led to a 5.5 percent decline in transactions, the largest quarterly drop for Target in six years, the retailer reported in February.

Since then, numerous other retailers have been attacked, including Neiman Marcus and Home Depot, which revealed last month that hackers had stolen data on 56 million customer debit and credit cards in the largest retail breach on record.

A Target spokeswoman said customers view last year’s credit card breach “as old news” and “they have moved on."

“As we enter the busy holiday retail season, we are focused on turning the page and delivering an outstanding holiday shopping experience to all Target guests,” Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder told HuffPost.

The retailer has taken measures to improve security, including hiring new executives to oversee its technology team and introducing machines that read a new type of credit card that uses an embedded microchip and a PIN code to authorize transactions. Such technology is supposed to be more secure by making it difficult for thieves to produce counterfeit credit cards. The more secure credit cards are expected to be issued to most Americans by October 2015.

Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes said the retailer recently introduced new technology that protects payment information through encryption to make credit card numbers unreadable to hackers. The home-improvement store plans to introduce machines that read more secure credit cards in all of its stores by the end of the year.

Though the number of credit and debit cards stolen from Target and Home Depot equals about one-third of the U.S. population, the repercussions for shoppers have been minimal. For the most part, banks have issued new debit and credit cards to affected customers and reimbursed them for fraudulent charges.

Some industry experts said Target may see a decline in shoppers this holiday season because of the massive credit card breach, but expressed skepticism with the survey’s findings that 45 percent plan to avoid the retailer.

“We know that Target’s business was negatively impacted by the breach that occurred there, but nowhere near the level that would be suggested by 'almost half,’” said David Robertson, publisher of The Nilson Report, a credit card industry trade publication.

Target also has an easy way to make wary customers forget about last year's cyber attack, said Schulz, the Creditcards.com analyst.

“A really good sale can sometimes trump people’s security concerns,” he said.