reports that the massive credit card heist at Target stores across the country was nearly twice as large as previously revealed. The retailer now reports that 70 million customers were hit, making it one of the largest security breaches of its kind. The newly disclosed victims included customers whose data was obtained by Target prior to Black Friday.
The company said Friday that as part of its ongoing probe it found that some customer information, apart from the 40 million payment card accounts previously disclosed, was stolen during the data breach. It said this is not a new breach. The stolen information includes names, mailing addresses, phone numbers or email addresses for up to 70 million individuals.
Target said that much of the data stolen is partial, but in situations where Target has an email address, it will attempt to contact the customers affected by the breach and provide them with tips to guard against consumer scams. Target said it won't ask customers for any personal information when it contacts them.
Even though the data is in bits and pieces, it means some of the previously disclosed stolen credit cards can be used to commit fraud in more places online. It could also be a precursor to more widespread identity theft. "They steal and combine what was stolen in previous breaches," said Avivah Latan, a fraud analyst at technology research company Gartner. "There are warehouses of information on people and dossiers. Now we've got John's credit card, his address, his phone number... they do put it together and sell entire profiles on people."