Shoppers at the Target store in downtown Stamford were not happy about the retailing giant's admission that its data security system was breached, putting millions of customers at risk of credit card fraud.
"My husband just yelled at me for shopping at Target," said Stamford Melissa Gallaher-Smith, 40, a regular Target shopper who was loading bags from a carriage into her car after doing some Christmas shopping at the Stamford store Thursday.
Anyone who used a credit card or a debit card -- either from a bank, or the red cards from Target itself -- to shop at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 was in jeopardy of being hacked and their credit cards used to pile up other people's purchases.
The information stolen included customer name, credit or debit card number, and the card's expiration date and three-digit security number on the back of the card, Target said in an announcement to consumers. As many as 40 million Target customers in the United States may be affected.
Another shopper at the Stamford store Friday was Old Greenwich resident Tracy Bruce, 51, who had been unaware of the news, and was shocked when told that there had been a security breach for 40 million Target retail customers.
"This is news to me. It concerns me," Bruce said. "I had a cousin who was a victim of (credit card) theft. It took a long time to get her credit score back. It was very arduous."
Darien resident Tom Maguire, 57, said as he was walking toward the Stamford store entrance when he had heard about the situation and was worried.
"My daughter bought some things at Target, and I'm here to pick them up," Maguire said. "I'm going to call her and see if she is freaking out."
The announcement of the security breach was important enough to prompt state Attorney General George Jepsen and Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein to issue a joint statement Thursday, urging shoppers to take all necessary precautions if they and bought items on plastic at Target during the three weeks in question.
"We are only beginning to understand the implications of this massive nationwide data breach and the impact it will have on Connecticut consumers,'' Jepsen said in the statement.
Rubenstein urged shoppers to take steps to protect themselves.
"If you can check your debit card transactions and credit card transactions online, go ahead and do so today," Rubenstein said. "If you can change your pin numbers for your cards, do so now. With so much shopping and spending going on this time of year, consumers should be extra vigilant. Keep all receipts, check them, and scrutinize your credit statements and bank statements when they arrive during December and January."
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal was stronger in his criticism of Target, noting there was a lapse of at least three days from Target's discovery of the breach to the store's announcement to consumers.
"I am strongly concerned that the store failed to act as quickly as it could," Blumenthal said. "Notification should be immediate and comprehensive."
Blumenthal also said Target should offer free financial data security services to all the customer affected, as well as insurance to protect against identity theft.
Target -- which has 1,797 stores nationwide, including 20 in Connecticut -- has not said how the data breach occurred. But the store did say it has fixed the problem and credit card holders can continue shopping at its stores.
The Minneapolis-based company has advised customers to check their statements carefully. Those who see suspicious charges on the cards should report it to their credit card companies and call Target at 866-852-8680. Cases of identity theft can also be reported to law enforcement or the Federal Trade Commission.
"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," Chairman, President and CEO Gregg Steinhafel said in a statement Thursday.
The breach worried Target shoppers around the state. "We regret any inconvenience this may cause."