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Consumers react to Target breach

Potential victims of credit card fraud tied to Target's security breach said they had trouble contacting the discounter through its website and call centres.

Angry Target customers expressed their displeasure in comments on the company's Facebook page. Some threatened to stop shopping at the store.

The nation's second-largest retailer acknowledged Thursday that data connected to about 40 million credit and debit card accounts was stolen as part of a breach that began over the Thanksgiving weekend.

The theft is the second-largest credit card breach in U.S. history, exceeded only by a scam that began in 2005 involving retailer TJX Cos. That incident affected at least 45.7 million card users.

On Friday, Target reiterated that the stolen data included customer names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates and the embedded code on the magnetic strip found on the backs of cards, Target said.

Target hasn't disclosed exactly how the breach occurred but said it has fixed the problem.

Given the millions of dollars that companies such as Target spend implementing credit-card security measures each year, Avivah Litan, a security analyst with Gartner Research, said she believes the theft may have been an inside job.

Other experts theorize that Target's network was hacked and infiltrated from the outside.

Data breaches tied to credit card fraud are on the rise, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, a San Francisco-based financial services firm.

According to a report by the firm, nearly 16 million consumers were notified that their card information was compromised in 2012, while the number of victims of fraud increased more than threefold from 2010 to 2012. 

Al Pascual, a senior analyst of security risk and fraud at Javelin, noted that 28 per cent of customers who are notified that their cards were breached typically suffer fraud in the same year.

"This is going to spawn credit card fraud," he said.

Target's credit card breach poses a serious problem and threatens to scare away shoppers who worry about the safety of their personal data.

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Associated Press writers Michelle Chapman and Bree Fowler in New York contributed to this report.

The Canadian Press

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