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Target data breach: What you should know

Posted by Mitch Lipka  December 19, 2013 10:08 AM

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target.jpgIf you're one of the many, many millions of people who shop at Target, you officially have reason for concern. Target has confirmed that 40 million credit and debit card accounts of its customers were breached by thieves.

That's reason for concern. Not panic.

Here's what the thieves got: Customer names, their card numbers and expiration date and the three-digit security codes. What does that let them do? It can allow them -- or anyone they sell the data to -- to use your cards to buy things online or even create new cards they can use.

It's a scary proposition, particularly for those whose debit cards were affected. Consumers are protected from having to pay for fraudulent purchases, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a hassle. Indeed, for the most part, it's on you to identify purchases on your statements that aren't yours. With a debit card, a dispute could tie up your cash. With a credit card dispute, on the other hand, the company will usually temporarily credit your account the amount at issue while the charge is being investigated.

So, what does all this mean? If you shopped at Target and used a card between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 you ought to be checking your statements, and then check them again. If you have online access to your accounts, check them even more often so you can begin the process of trying to reverse the charge as soon as possible.

Credit card companies shield their customers from fraud that is reported. Visa issued a statement today about that:

"As always, Visa encourages cardholders to regularly monitor their accounts, carefully review statements and notify their issuing financial institution promptly of any unusual activity. Cardholders should also remember they are protected against fraudulent purchases with Visa’s zero liability protection policy. Additional consumer security tips are available at”

And here's a link to some additional information from Target that includes information about requesting a creating a freeze on your credit reports as well as contact information for Target and other answers to some questions customers might have.

Here's Target's statement on the issue

Target today confirmed it is aware of unauthorized access to payment card data that may have impacted certain guests making credit and debit card purchases in its U.S. stores. Target is working closely with law enforcement and financial institutions, and has identified and resolved the issue.

“Target’s first priority is preserving the trust of our guests and we have moved swiftly to address this issue, so guests can shop with confidence. We regret any inconvenience this may cause,” said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Target. “We take this matter very seriously and are working with law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice.”

Approximately 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been impacted between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013. Target alerted authorities and financial institutions immediately after it was made aware of the unauthorized access, and is putting all appropriate resources behind these efforts. Among other actions, Target is partnering with a leading third-party forensics firm to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident.

More information is available at Target’s corporate website. Guests who suspect unauthorized activity should contact Target at: 866-852-8680.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at


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