If you were one of the thousands packing Target stores on Black Friday or if you’ve shopped there since, you may be the victim of credit card theft. Target admitted Thursday in response to allegations that its data had been compromised. More than 40 million credit cards of Target shoppers have been accessed. As of December 20, it is unclear as to the exact extent of losses sustained.
On December 13, security journalist Brian Krebs reported on his site, KrebsOnSecurity, that “multiple reliable sources” had informed him of an internal investigation by Target. His sources at “two different top 10 credit card providers” claimed that the retail giant had been breached and their credit card data accessed without authorization.
The size of the breach, 40 million cards, implies a breach on a national level, though the identities and methods of the hackers are unknown at this point. With the information gained from the breach, hackers are able to duplicate credit cards by writing stolen information onto a new magnetic strip. Fortunately the card PINs were not stored in the online database, which makes withdrawing cash largely impossible for the hackers. When used in conjunction with credit card skimmers, however, withdrawing cash is possible.
If you have shopped at Target on or before Black Friday 2013, you may be a victim of credit card theft. Most banking institutions offer fraud protection and will contact you with unauthorized use, although it’s safest to manually check your statements. Look for anything out of the ordinary. If you have been affected, contact your card provider immediately.
UPDATE: Developments today indicate that the stolen credit cards are being sold in online black markets for bitcoin, a digital currency. Krebs also reports that the CV2 numbers on the backs of the cards were not stolen, which makes it nearly impossible for hackers to use the cards online. The cards are still selling for $20-100 online.
Security breaches have been in the news this year, from the government to retail giants to others like JPMorgan and Playstation. While hacking is actually becoming harder by the year, the rewards continue to grow. Customers aren’t the only victims, though. Edward Snowden made headlines for his breach of the NSA’s breach of national security, and a team of thieves from the Dominican Republic perpetrated a $45 million ATM heist in February.
It’s largely unpredictable as to when and where credit card information will be stolen, and in the digital age most retailers encourage you to store your information in their database. The best protection is to monitor your account for suspicious activity and to report any inaccuracy. If you’ve been affected by the Target credit card breach or another loss of sensitive information, leave your story in the comments.
About The Author: Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.