StaplesOffice supply retail chain Staples announced on Monday that it is investigating a breach in its payment systems. Staples joins Kmart, Home Depot, Dairy Queen and a number of other retailers who have suffered from data breaches over the past few months. The constant stream of new security breach discoveries is bound to continue, as the Department of Homeland Security estimated in July that more than 1,000 businesses in the U.S. had likely been targeted by the infamous “Backoff” malware. Although you might be tired of reading about breaches, it’s important if you have shopped at Staples recently to stay alert.

What information has Staples released about the breach?

So far, not much is known about the extent of the Staples data breach. Cybersecurity blogger Brian Krebs broke the news on Monday. He cited reports from several banks in the northeastern U.S. of a pattern of credit and debit card fraud which pointed to several Staples locations as the source of the theft. The stores that have been discovered to be compromised so far are only in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Staples itself made an announcement the same day that it was aware of the problem and had contacted law enforcement to investigate. The retail chain has over 1,800 locations nationwide. If the breach is not limited to just the northeast, this could be a big headache for Staples.

How can I ensure my own safety?

Right now, almost nothing is known except that some customers’ credit and debit cards were compromised. If you have shopped at a Staples recently, it’s a good idea to take a couple of safety measures to get ahead of any bad news. Here are some tips for doing this:

1. Keep a close eye on your statements. The best way to catch a thief in his tracks is to spot fraudulent charges as soon as they happen. Check your bank or credit card statements on a daily basis and follow up on any charges you don’t recognize. If you see something that you think might be fraudulent, call the bank or credit card company right away and report it. Credit card thieves count on victims not paying attention to their account activity, so one of the best things you can do to protect yourself is to start paying attention.

2. Consider signing up for identity theft protection. Being proactive about your identity is a must in today’s climate of constant scams and security attacks. Identity theft protection services work around the clock to protect the things that are most vulnerable when it comes to your identity. The top-rated services offer monitoring for your personal and financial information on the Internet black market, public records and other places thieves frequent to ensure it is not being sold, traded or used without your knowledge. Many also provide credit report monitoring, complete with regularly updated credit reports and scores to keep you in the know about your credit. The best part? These services are cost-effective — many plans costing under $20/month.

While you wait for the Staples investigation to reveal the full extent of this security breach, read up on identity theft protection services at our in-depth review page.