With six days until Christmas, retail giant Target is doing some major damage control.
Hackers stole critical data on about 40 million customers, including names, credit and debit card numbers, their expiration dates and the three-digit security codes, but reportedly not debit card PIN numbers.
The hack apparently originated with the swipe machines at registers. Now, the company is trying to figure out what happened, and customers are left with getting new credit cards just days before Christmas.
"They had done 16 different transactions all the way down to zero," said Eduardo Medina.
Medina saw his account balance of zero, and that the transactions by a thief had drained his account of around $1,200.
"They were all done at a Walgreens in Chicago, as far as I know," he said. "It was a lot of $50, $50, $50, $100. It was like the lady at the bank said, it was probably gift cards."
Medina shopped at Target on Thanksgiving Day and several days since.
He seems to be one of the customers whose credit and debit card numbers have been stolen, and with days to go before Christmas, it's an unwanted holiday headache.
"They actually canceled my card while I was on the phone, but then I had to go in and fill out an affidavit for each transaction, so I had to do 16 different ones," he said.
Target says it has sealed up the security breach and is now looking into how the credit information was compromised.
The retailer has hired an independent company to investigate, and the Secret Service is conducting its own inquiry.
But right around last minute shopping, it truly isn't the best time to be damaging customers' trust.
"I can't see how they would not take a hit on this," said Dr. Elten Briggs, marketing professor at UTA. "I think it's unavoidable."
Briggs says the Target crisis reminds him of the public relations nightmare JetBlue had when it left passengers stranded on the runways on Valentine's Day of 2007.
"Target, like JetBlue, also has to make amends now," he said. "They probably have to up their communication quite a bit. People want to know what's going on."
Briggs says Target is in damage control right now, and can't waste any time.
Folks will be shopping this weekend, and company has to assure them that its swipe card machines are safe.
"Target needs to think about, ‘How can we integrate something into our service process that consumers can readily see that's going to make them a lot more comfortable about shopping with us again?'" said Briggs.
Right now, the retailer is giving customers a number to call, urging them to monitor their bank accounts and hoping that customers will follow the loyalty model of Medina, who plans to keep shopping at Target.
KDFW FOX 4
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