The nation's No. 2 general merchandise retailer, Target (or as I like to pronounce it in my finest French accent "Tar Jaaay"), has been in the spotlight quite a bit during the past 3 weeks. Unfortunately, the words "hack" and "credit card fraud" have become associated with the added publicity. If you've followed this story closely or maybe are personally involved due to the fact you shopped at Target during the holiday season as I did, you've heard all kinds of "news" about what happened. How much of it is truth, rumor, half truths, urban legend, lies, media hype, or general overreaction? I will attempt to clear things up by presenting to you for the 1st and only time the... Target Top 5: 'Truths or Myths?'
Truth Or Myth #1
Target got "Hacked" during the prime Christmas shopping season only. It may have impacted as many as 40 million shoppers at their stores between November 27 and December 15, 2013 who used credit, debit, and Target Red Cards. Target has since stated that it has "identified and eliminated" the threat posed by the unauthorized access by unknown parties to its customer payment card data. Myth
Unfortunately, the Nightmare Continues. Yes, it is "Truth" that Target got "Hacked". More importantly, the "Myth" is that the threat has been "identified and eliminated". Yesterday I spoke with a Target Customer Service Representative who told me the number of people affected by the credit card fraud has grown beyond the original 40 million. The Representative additionally stated that breaches have occurred beyond the original above mentioned dates. Based on taking thousands of calls, he recommends that if you've recently shopped at Target, change your card immediately! That does not sound very good. You can contact Target Customer Service at (866) 852-8680.
Truth Or Myth #2
I personally shopped at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec.15, and am a 'member' of the 40 Million+ Club. Truth
That's the reason I'm doing this story. The whole thing is almost surreal. I rarely shop at Target, but this Christmas season I did. As part of my "research" for a recent OC Weekly article entitled Top 10 Christmas Gifts "4 Under $6", I spent a whopping $16 on several 'Under $6' items at the Target Huntington Beach East store on Brookhurst and Adams. Ironically, none of them made my Top 10 list. They were Giant Lifesavers ($3.99), Snickers ($3.49), Nestle Crunch ($3.49), and Baby Ruth ($3.49) purchased on December 8th. I paid using the Poor Debit Card (See Purchases and Receipt Pics).
Luckily, it has not been "hacked" yet. In case you're concerned (can't imagine anybody besides my Mom and Dad are), I'm probably going to change the card this week. On a side note, Target doesn't have great deals compared to other retailers such as Kmart, Michaels, and Ikea. Karma baby!
Truth Or Myth #3 Myth
All the credit, debit, and Target Red Card holder shopping victims who had their information "hacked" were personally notified by Target Representatives at the time the breaches were publicly announced by a Target Media Spokesperson on December 19th.
Are you kidding!?! Nobody was notified by Target personally. Many of us, including myself, found out through the media announcement on December 19th. Others heard about it through other media reports, word of mouth, a Target website announcement, or suddenly discovering their cards were hacked. On it's website, Target warned customers that the criminals had stolen names, payment card numbers, expiration dates and security codes. That's a great big "Merry Christmas" to it's customers. I was never notified personally by Target either then or since. I'm guessing nobody else was either. Truth Or Myth #4
Target is completely confused as to what to do to solve it's gigantic customer credit card data breach. There is no well coordinated company wide Master Plan. Truth At this point in time, it seems as if confusion reigns supreme with Upper Management at Target. There is no set direction as to what needs to be done. This has trickled down to Target store and Call Center employees who unfortunately are the bearers of customer abuse. In defense of Target, how could they have possibly prepared to deal with this? The Customer Service Rep I spoke with yesterday told me he has been cursed at extensively, and called every name in the book. He said Target had to hire huge numbers of additional outside Call Center Spokespeople to handle the volume of pissed off people. He told me that originally, they were all handling calls every 10 to 15 seconds. Now, it's a call every 10 to 15 minutes. Employees at the stores are completely confused as to how to deal with the onslaught of angry customers. They're also afraid they'll lose their jobs if the wrong advice is given. I talked with a middle-aged female employee at Target Customer Service in the Huntington Beach East store on December 23rd. She told me "I only make $9 an hour. I don't want to give you advice, because I might lose my job. Call Customer Service."
I spoke with one of the managers, Adam, at Target in Costa Mesa on December 27th. He told me that customers were physically throwing their credit cards at him. Business is down. People aren't using their cards as much, and now paying with cash. There is no consistent advice from anyone I've spoken with. Some of the employees at the two Target stores I visited said that my card is safe now, because it hasn't been hacked yet. Others have told me, "If you think you're OK, then there's no need to get a new card." The Customer Service Call Center seems equally confused and inconsistent. I've talked with them many times. When I pressed several employees and Call Center Operators by asking if they could guarantee my card wouldn't get "hacked" at this point, they wouldn't go that far. The only thing consistent about everyone's advice is that it was all based on their personal opinion only. That is not very reassuring! Truth Or Myth #5
Target should have prevented the Credit, Debit, and Target Red Card data breach in the first place. Myth The truth is it's probable Target couldn't no matter how many security precautions they took. Target is not the first major company to get "hacked". They won't be the last! These cyber criminals obviously have achieved a level of sophistication that governmental authorities for the most part haven't equalled! Whoever "hacked" Target hasn't yet been caught. Will they ever be? Is it possible that it was an inside job? There are many unanswered questions. I never hear the media announce that authorities have caught the perpetrators involving any corporate "hack" job. Until we invent a new, safeguarded system (if we ever do), expect more of the same. Notably, Sony Online Entertainment's PlayStation and Citibank experienced 2011 credit card "hackings". Adobe was "hacked" in October 2013. The list goes on and on. The good news for Target is that other "hacked" companies recovered. I think they just need time to clean up the mess.
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In my dealings with Target, they do seem to genuinely care about their customers who were violated while shopping at their stores. Target has publicly accepted full responsibility for all fraudulent activity from November 27th-December 15th. Regarding normal everyday consumer use, we all know any time you use a credit or debit card, you run the risk that you'll get "hacked". While I've been lucky thus far in the Target situation, I wasn't so lucky on 3 other occasions. I remember one time, I was "hacked" by some cyber criminals in Romania who within minutes drained my account of more than $2,500. That's a fortune in party $ for the Poorman! I had no idea how they obtained my information. It was a helpless feeling. Luckily for myself, my bank covered the theft. All I had to do was get a new bank account and debit card. Most consumer fraud is covered by your bank or credit card company. It was a hassle for about two weeks in my case. The same risks hold true for large corporations dealing with a huge volume of credit card transactions.
Here are some numbers and services that Target is offering that you may need: *Fraud And Claims Department 800 480 8236 (Debit and Credit Cards). *Fraud And Claims Department 800 659 2396 (Target Red Cards). *Target Customer Service 866 852 8680. *Target Free Monitoring Service For A Year If You Were "Hacked". Use either Equifax 800 525 6285; Experian 888 397 3742; or TransUnion.com 800 680 7289.
*If you have any personal experiences or thoughts involving the Target Credit Card Fraud or Credit Card "Hacking" in general, your comments below would be most appreciated!
Get in touch with the Poorman anytime if you have an interesting story or great deal '4 Under $6'!!! Maybe you just want to say hi. Phone: 949 870 6155 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook: Jim Poorman Trenton Twitter: @Poorman1