Monterey County Bank
12/19/2013: TARGET ALERTS CONSUMERS OF UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS


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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - 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 in the three weeks after Thanksgiving, the retailer said Thursday.

Late Wednesday, the Secret Service, which is charged with safeguard the nation's financial infrastructure and payment systems, confirmed it was investigating the breach. Spokesman Brian Leary declined further comment.

The breach first came to light via a report from respected security researcher Brian Krebs that said Target had suffered a data breach around the time of Black Friday last month "potentially involving millions of customer credit and debit card records."

Target, the nation's No. 2 general merchandise retailer after Walmart Stores, said cards used at the brick-and-mortar stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013, may have been impacted.

The retailer said it notified authorities and financial institutions immediately after it was made aware of the unauthorized access, and had hired a forensics team to thoroughly investigate how the breach may have happened.

"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," said CEO Gregg Steinhafel in a statement. "We regret any inconvenience this may cause."

The thieves reportedly gained access to data on the magnetic strips of shoppers' cards, potentially allowing them to produce counterfeit versions, according to Krebs. The thieves could also potentially withdraw cash from ATMs using counterfeit debit cards if they were able to intercept PIN data from Target, he said.

American Express and Discover both said they were "aware" of the incident and had fraud controls in place. "This is an ongoing investigation," an AmEx spokeswoman said, declining to comment further.

MasterCard referred questions to Target; Visa did not respond to requests for comment.

Target competitor TJX Companies -- which operates discount retail chains T.J.  Maxx and Marshalls -- fell victim to one of the worst security breaches ever  back in 2006, when hackers gained access to at least 94 million domestic and  international accounts containing credit card, debit card, and check  information.

CNNMoney's Greg Wallace, Julianne Pepitone, James O'Toole and Chris Isidore contributed to this report.

Also visit www.Target.com for an Important Notice to consumers containing additional information relating to this incident.

Customers who have used credit and/or debit cards at Target locations should take the following steps to protect their accounts:

    1. Check and monitor your bank and credit card statements for evidence of unauthorized transactions.
    2. Contact your bank or credit card company if you identify suspicious charges. 
    3. Know that cardholders are not held responsible for fraudulent charges made by unauthorized parties if reported promptly to the card issuer.
Cardholders should contact the number on the back of their card immediately to report any fraud.  Monterey County Bank customers are urged to contact their local branch office or our main office at (831) 649-4600 during regular business hours.  If it is after hours, please contact (800) 472-3272.
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