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Hackers steal 53M email addresses from Home Depot, shoppers told to be wary of scams

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Minnesota's Home Depot shoppers have been warned to keep a close eye out for phishing scams after the retailer revealed that 53 million customer email addresses have been stolen by hackers.

The credit and debit card information from 56 million customers was put at risk in a data breach between April and September of this year, but today's announcement that email addresses were also accessed means the breach was bigger than first thought, according to Newsweek.

The world's largest home improvement chain said in a company announcement the stolen file containing the email addresses did not contain passwords or other personal details.

But Minnesotans who shop at one of the 35-plus Home Depot stores scattered across the state, or who use its online store, have been told to be on the lookout for email scams that encourage people to share sensitive information. CNN Money reports that affected customers will be contacted.

The nation's biggest retail companies have been scrambling to improve their data protection systems after a series of high-profile hacks in the past 12 months.

Most notably, Minneapolis-based Target revealed in January that millions of customers' details were stolen in a massive data breach, with email addresses and phone numbers among the information taken.

Grocery chain SuperValu revealed a second data breach in as many months in September, and said that while its new malicious software safeguards had worked, the software had not yet been installed at its Cub Foods stores in Shakopee, White Bear Lake, Roseville and Hastings.

A study by the Ponemon Institute earlier this year found that the average cost of a data breach to a company in 2014 is $3.5 million, a 15 percent rise on the previous year.

That same report revealed that 43 percent of companies say they had been targeted by hackers in the previous 12 months, according to USA Today.

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