Target Warns Customers After Card Security Breach

David Greene talks to NPR's Elise Hu for an update on the investigation into the theft of Target customers' credit and debit card information. Up to 40 million credit card accounts and more than 1,500 stores across the country are affected.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

NPR's business news begins with Target customers who are being targeted.

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GREENE: OK. If you did any holiday shopping at Target recently, you might want to take a careful look at your credit and debit card statements. The company has confirmed that up to 40 million customers could be affected by a major credit card data breach. NPR's Elise Hu has been following the story and joins us in the studio. And, Elise, who's affected by this?

ELISE HU, BYLINE: Well, Target says the security breach started just before Black Friday, and that access to its customer information stretched all the way through Dec. 15th, which is earlier this week. So this happened during the heart of holiday shopping season. That means everybody who shopped at the brick-and-mortar stores of Target between just before Black Friday and Dec. 15th, is affected.

It's one of the biggest data breaches on record. Thieves intercepted the machines customers use to swipe their cards when making purchases. So again, this affects people who actually went to the stores, and not those who shopped at Target online.

GREENE: And that's good to know for all those people who do online shopping right now.

HU: That's right.

GREENE: Well, do we know what kind of information was stolen, here?

HU: Yeah. It involves all the data that you could get from the magnetic strip on the backs of credit cards. So that's the credit card number, the expiration date, and that three-digit security code - sometimes you have to enter in, when you're making online purchases.

GREENE: Sure.

HU: Getting this information also would allow the cyberthief to essentially create a counterfeit card. There's a whole market for this, a whole black market for buying and selling credit card information. So Target says, take a close look at your statements for anything out of the ordinary. Call your bank, call your credit card company quickly, if you do spot anything bogus.

GREENE: We said this is the heart of the holiday shopping season, which is crucial for companies like Target. This is probably not the attention that they want. I mean, are they investigating, to try and find out exactly what happened here?

HU: Target says it is investigating, and it has the help of the Secret Service. The Secret Service did confirm to NPR last night it has begun an investigation, but won't say anything beyond that because this is an ongoing case. We don't know how many credit card companies are working with Target, but American Express has said publicly it is working with the retailer, to respond quickly to this breach. We're going to stay on this story, of course. Check out npr.org and the Two Way blog, which is our breaking news blog, for more information.

GREENE: All right. As you say, we'll be following that story. NPR's Elise Hu, thanks a lot.

HU: Thank you.

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