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Target contacts shoppers about credit monitoring

Jan. 18, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

NEW YORK -- An email sent to the roughly 70 million Target customers who may have been affected by a pre-Christmas data breach is causing concern among those who fear it could be an attempt to victimize them again.

Target says the email, which offers free credit monitoring services to potential victims of the breach, is legitimate. But the company has identified a handful of scammers who are trying to take advantage of the public's fear and confusion.

Consumers have been on edge since news of the data breach broke last month. And they've been warned to be on alert for possible follow-up attacks that could come in the form of phishing emails, electronic messages designed to implant malicious software on their computers or draw them to websites that prompt them to enter personal information.

So when Target's email began circulating earlier this week, many recipients questioned its authenticity. The email was especially suspicious to people who say they haven't set foot in a Target store in years.

According to Target, hackers stole data related to 40 million credit and debit card accounts and also pilfered personal information, including email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses and names of as many as 70 million customers.

Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder says it's those 70 million people that Target contacted by email. And while Target believes the theft of the roughly 40 million debit and credit card numbers only affected cards swiped between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, the 70 million people whose personal information was stolen could have last shopped at a Target store months, or even years, ago.

Meanwhile, consumers are right to be wary of emails purportedly sent by Target. Snyder says that in recent weeks the retailer has stopped more than a dozen operations that sought to scam breach victims by way of email, phone calls, and text messages.

Target says all of the letters it's sending to shoppers are posted on the company's website, along with information about what customers need to do to sign up for Target's free credit monitoring.

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