The news: Apparently there's a holiday shopping season for stolen credit cards, too.
There is more bad news for retail superstore chain Target and its customers: the credit card information hacked and stolen between November 27 and December 15 has begun to hit the black market.
According to the New York Times, there has been a "ten- to twenty-fold increase in the number of high-value stolen cards on black market web sites," which is being attributed to the customer information stolen during Target's security breach.
The backstory: The operation that hacked Target's system and got away with customers' credit and debit card information was no small feat. Target estimates that 40 million customers had their information compromised, coming from pretty much all of the 1,797 Target locations. Online customers were spared, but still, the breach came during the height of the holiday shopping season.
Though this wasn't the largest retail credit card hack in U.S. history — that would be the TJ Maxx and Marshall's breach that hit approximately 90 million credit and debit cards — the speed with which Target was hacked was unprecedented.
Why this matters: It turns out that credit cards are big business on the black market. According to experts, stolen card information is sold in bulk, with cards going for prices anywhere from 25 cents to $100.
This came at probably the worst time for U.S. shoppers. On top of the usual stress of the holiday season, now 40 million people have to worry about their credit cards being sold away. Target, in an attempt to save face and help out its customers, offered a 10% discount on all purchases made on December 21 and 22. Although you could probably argue that Target was just using this at a promotion to get even more people into its stores this past weekend, it's the thought that counts, right?
And though the retail giant promises customers that they won't be held responsible for any fraudulent charges, it's simply another thing to worry about. Will this prompt people to start paying with cash? Maybe in the short term, at least at Target, but this probably won't have much of a lasting impact. Credit cards are ubiquitous, and so are the risks involved.