Klein & Wilson

40 million Target customers affected by data breach

When a data breach occurs at a retailer the size of Target, the number of impacted customers can be staggering. On Dec. 20, Target announced that as many as 40 million customers could have had their credit card information compromised. The customers included were those who shopped at the second largest "general merchandise retailer" between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. This only included those who shopped at Target stores, and not those who made purchases online.

According to Target, the security codes and personal identification numbers for the credit cards were not compromised. However, there are reports from an attorney seeking class-action certification against Target that some customers have already lost money when thieves made withdrawals at ATMs. The California lawyer said that "Target has an obligation to provide adequate security for the financial information they collect."

Target hasn't commented on the possible litigation, but said that other information, such as customers' Social Security numbers and birth dates, were not compromised. In addition, Target said that MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover have all been provided with the credit card numbers that have been impacted by the data breach, allowing the companies to watch the accounts for fraudulent activity.

Target hasn't said how the information was taken, but experts in retailer security believe it would have happened at the "point-of-sale system" in the stores. Special programming called malware could have been installed on the stores' payment terminals or the data could have been intercepted when it was sent to companies that process the credit card data. Target has said that the problem that allowed the theft of the data has been resolved.

The class action is not likely the only litigation that will pop up from this massive security breach. Business litigation such as this will require experienced attorneys to go up against a retail giant like Target. However, Target should make it right for its customers impacted by the breach.

Source: money.cnn.com, "Target offers 10% discount after credit card hack" Emily Jane Fox and James O'Toole, Dec. 21, 2013

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