Target: 40 million credit and debit card accounts may be breached

ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, MICHELLE CHAPMAN, AP Business Writers Modified: December 19, 2013 at 8:27 am •  Published: December 19, 2013

As a result of these incentives, Target says its continues to see that households who activate a Target-branded card have increased their spending at the store by about 50 percent on average.

"This is how Target is getting more customers in the stores," said Brian Sozzi, CEO and Chief Equities Strategist. "It's telling people to use the card. It's been a big win. If they lose that trust, that person goes to Wal-Mart."

Target is just the latest retailer to be hit with a data breach problem. TJX Cos., which runs stores such as T.J. Maxx and Marshall's, had a breach that began in July 2005 that exposed at least 45.7 million credit and debit cards to possible fraud. The breach wasn't detected until December 2006. In June 2009 TJX agreed to pay $9.75 million in a settlement with multiple states related to the massive data theft but stressed at the time that it firmly believed it did not violate any consumer protection or data security laws.

An even larger hack hit Sony in 2011. It had to rebuild trust among PlayStation Network gamers after hackers compromised personal information including credit card data on more than 100 million user accounts. Sony was criticized for slowness in alerting users to the breach.

"Target's first priority is preserving the trust of our guests and we have moved swiftly to address this issue, so guests can shop with confidence. We regret any inconvenience this may cause," Chairman, President and CEO Gregg Steinhafel said in a statement Thursday.

Target has 1,797 U.S. stores and 124 in Canada.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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