Target says up to 40 million cards affected by data breach

Hackers access data stored on magnetic strip of credit, debit cards

ORLANDO, Fla. - Target shoppers may be at risk from a security breach that extends to most of their stores nationwide after the retailer was hit by an extensive theft of credit and debit card information over the past few weeks.

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Target said on Thursday that up to 40 million card accounts may have been affected by that data breach, which occurred from Nov. 27 to Dec. 15. 

Target said it is working closely with law enforcement and financial institutions and has identified and resolved the issue.  The store said it's also partnering with a third-party forensics firm to conduct an investigation.

The security breach is believed to have happened on or around Black Friday and may have gone on until last week, putting millions of customers at risk.

Hackers apparently gained access to data that is stored on the magnetic strip on the back of credit and debit cards, potentially allowing them to make copies. If they got PINs, they could possibly recreate a card and withdraw cash from an ATM machine.

"Target's first priority is preserving the trust of our guests and we have moved swiftly to address this issue, so guests can shop with confidence. We regret any inconvenience this may cause," said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Target. "We take this matter very seriously and are working with law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice."

Elizabeth Marks visited the store right after Black Friday and was shocked to hear the news.

"It's very frightening, I'll be honest with you, that something like that could happen so close," said Marks. "I come twice a week."

"That's terrible. Especially on the holidays and during this time to have things like that going on with people's hard earned money," said frequent Target shopper Wolf Louis.

Reports indicate that online customers have not been affected because the thieves used the magnetic strip on the back of the card to store the information.

Guests who suspect unauthorized activity should contact Target at 866-852-8680.  More information is also available at Target's corporate website.

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