A breach of credit and debit card data at discount retailer Target may have affected as many as 40 million shoppers who went to the store between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013, the retailer said Thursday. Target has said that just shoppers using cards at the brick-and-mortar stores are impacted by this data breach and that no online sales were compromised. This is a big deal as Target is the number 2 general merchandise retailer in America and the exploit happened over Black Friday, which is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

The data breach has allowed criminals to have access to the data on the magnetic strips of shoppers' cards, potentially allowing them to produce counterfeit versions and they were also able to intercept PIN data. This means that the customer names, payment card numbers, expiration dates and their CVV security codes were all compromised. That is rather alarming as thieves could easily make counterfeit debit cards withdraw cash from ATMs using the known PIN number. We highly advise that you look at your credit card statements very closely today and change your PIN number. You'll also want to keep an eye on your account transactions for months to come as this was a full data breach. American Express, Discover, Mastercard and others are aware of the issue.

It should be noted that nearly all of Target's 1,797 stores in the United States are involved. Investigators believe the data was obtained via software installed on point-of-sales terminals used to swipe magnetic strips on payment cards. The status of Target's 124 Canadian retail stores is not known.

“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, Target. “We take this matter very seriously and are working with law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice.”

Target is working closely with the Secret Service and other law enforcement and financial institutions, and has identified and resolved the issue. Shoppers who suspect unauthorized activity should contact Target at: 866-852-8680.

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