If you used your credit or debit card at any of the 1,797 Target stores between November 27 and December 15, check your statements very carefully - a security breach affecting 40+ million accounts was announced this week. Target officials say they contacted the authorities and financial institutions immediately upon discovery and are investigating how this could have occurred. This is one of the nations’ largest retail cybercrimes to date and even has the Secret Service investigating.
Investigators state the operation was sophisticated, possibly gaining the encrypted information from a central database or malware-laden emails that spread the Target network once opened. Target says it’s unlikely that their website was impacted. Anyone who has been affected should immediately call his or her financial institutions. Other than keeping a very close eye on bank and credit card statements, there isn’t much the public can do except cancel credit/debit cards.
Brian Krebs, a journalist who specializes in computer security and first reported the breach, said that fraud typically increases during the holidays as consumers purchase more merchandise and are less likely to notice extra charges.
Don’t wait for your monthly statements to come by mail if you still rely on that method - go online and check immediately and daily for false charges. The sooner you find and report fraud the sooner you can stop any further fraudulent charges.
According to Javelin Strategy & Research, this fiasco could cost consumers $4.1 billion, almost all from potential debit card losses. In addition, victims could spend as many as 131 million hours trying to resolve fraud issues.