TODAY | December 20, 2013
>> more on the alarming security breech at target. 40 million credit and debit card numbers compromised by a sophisticated hacking. jeff rossen is at a target in boynton beach , florida. good morning.
>> reporter: good morning. one of the biggest hacking security breeches of credit cards in history. this all happened at the check out counter. when you came to target during a period of thanksgiving and a few days ago, when you went to buy something and swiped any credit or debit card at the check out counter, that's when police believe they got your information. customers are angry this morning. reports of people calling target, going on target's website, having a hard time getting in touch with the store. so overnight in response, target sent out an e-mail blast to customers saying your trust is a top priority and we deeply regret the inconvenience. obviously a lot of you were worried about this so this morning we're going to answer all of your questions and show you how easy it is for the thieves to use this information to go on a shopping spree posing as you.
>>> the u.s. secret service is now leading the information into this massive security breech effecting customers at all target stores between november 27th and december 15th , the peak of the holiday shopping season. 40 million credit and debit card numbers may have been compromised. this shopper fears the hackers already used her debit card .
>> i noticed my bank account is pretty low and saw 12$ 1273 charge to the microsoft store.
>> reporter: it was either sophisticated organized criminals that may have planted a virus or it was an inside job. target hired a third party forensic firm to prevent it from happening again. what exactly did the thieves steal? all the information on the card's magnetic strips including full names, card numbers, expiration dates and security codes. is the problem fixed? target said yes. but it took target three weeks to realize it and experts say the damage was already done.
>> 40 million records is a large number . that means in the united states there's a one in seven chance that your credit card has been compromised.
>> reporter: and once they have your information, security expert jim showed us in the past how quickly they can create a fake card.
>> once you have the data, you can take a hotel room key, slide it through. now this room key has the exact same data this credit card has.
>> reporter: thieves can also sell your personal information around the world on the black market . in 2009 the secret service showed today how it works. stolen visas, mastercards, and amexs all in this online flee market for criminals and experts fear that's exactly what's happening right now with this latest breech at target.
>> so how do you protect yourself? here's advice, if you used a credit or debit card keep a close eye on your account for anything suspicious. if you want to be extra safe, you can also call your credit card company today and cancel your card and get an all new number to protect yourself. here's something else, keep a close eye on your credit report to make sure people aren't opening accounts in your name. do that for free and we have a link to help you do it at today.com.
>> thank you, jeff. that effects a lot of people right now.