Target says that about 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been affected by a data breach that occurred just as the holiday shopping season shifted into high gear.
The security breach happened at stores all over the country, and may involve shoppers in the Tri-State.
At around 5 p.m. Thursday, a spokesperson for Target said the company would not release details on how many shoppers swiped credit cards during the time period in which the security breach occurred.
Authorities have yet to determine how the thefts happened, but said they took place between Nov. 29 and Dec. 15, during holiday shopping primetime. The November and December period accounts for 20 percent, on average, of total retail industry sales.
The company will also not release its amount of sales during that time period, the spokesperson said Thursday.
The stolen data includes customer names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates and the three-digit security codes located on the backs of cards. This type of data — also known as “track data” — allows thieves to make counterfeit cards by copying stolen credit card information onto another card with a magnetic stripe.
The breach affected all cards, including major card brands such as Visa and MasterCard and Target store brand cards.
Target has used its red branded credit and debit cards as a marketing tool to lure shoppers with a 5 percent discount. As of October the percentage of customers who have the Target branded cards topped 20 percent, the Minneapolis-based company said.
Mariemont resident Ellen Georgilis said, "You know, I know that stuff is going on all the time. I can't freak out about it. I use my credit card all the time. What are you going to do?"
Others prefer a heads up.
"It would have been nice for them to mention it out in the public," Goshen shopper David Engle said. "This is the first time I found out about it."
He had his credit card information stolen just last year.
"I just started noticing a lot of charges for Dominos, upwards from $50 to $100, added up to $500. All in places like South Carolina, Virginia, places I'd never been to," Engle said.
Target said it immediately told authorities and financial institutions once it became aware of the breach and that it is teaming with a third-party forensics firm to investigate and prevent future breaches. It said it is putting all "appropriate resources" toward the issue.
Investigators believe the information was somehow taken from the magnetic strip of debit and credit cards when they were being swiped on the machines during checkout.
Target has hired a third-party forensics firm to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and to examine additional measures that could be taken to prevent incidents of this kind in the future.
The company said in a release that it is putting its full resources behind these investigative efforts.
Engle said a good way to stay on top of charges to your accounts is to check your monthly statements. Target also advised customers to be diligent when it comes to monitoring their banking information.
Those who see suspicious charges on the cards should report it to their credit card companies and call Target at 866-852-8680. Cases of identity theft can also be reported to law enforcement or the Federal Trade Commission.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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