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Security breach brings suits

Target faces legal trouble after credit card problem

– Target, the second-largest U.S. discount chain, faces almost two dozen lawsuits filed by customers after a computer security breach exposed data on 40 million debit and credit cards.

Customers have filed complaints seeking group, or class-action, status for their suits in state and federal courts from the company’s home state of Minnesota to California and New York. Most accuse Target of failing to protect their private information.

The information obtained during the breach “is a treasure trove for identity theft criminals who could use it to gain access to credit card and other private and valuable information about customers,” one of the plaintiffs, Alfonso E. Alonso III of San Francisco, said in a complaint.

Target said Dec. 19 that security for the cards may have been breached between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 during purchases in stores. While the chain said it had identified and resolved the issue, the compromise occurred during the most important period of the year for retailers, with shoppers already showing reluctance to spend.

In a statement Tuesday, Target said it’s unveiling a special website to communicate with customers. The retailer said “limited incidents” of fake communications claiming to be from the company prompted it to set up the dedicated channel for posting information about the breach.

Alonso said in a complaint filed Monday in federal court in Minneapolis that Target didn’t notify consumers that its computers’ security was compromised until after the incident was reported by news media. That prevented customers from taking the necessary steps to protect against identity theft and fraud, he claimed.

He said he’s a regular Target customer and bought items at the store during the breach period, including a scooter and a helmet he bought for $60.98 on Dec. 2 to donate to a children’s charity.

Since disclosing the breakdown, the Minneapolis-based company has agreed to give some shoppers free credit reporting, assured them they wouldn’t be responsible for fraudulent charges, and offered a 10 percent discount on purchases last weekend to regain their trust.

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