Tens of thousands of people likely received a conciliatory e-mail from Target on Wednesday. In an effort to temper the repercussions of its massive data breach, the big-box retailer offered to give affected customers one year of free credit monitoring from Experian -- valued at $191.
The security breach, which yielded the personal information of as many as 110 million customers, was first identified on December 15. Apparently, cybercriminals accessed customers' private information at point-of-sale terminals during check-out.
Target said the breach occurred between November 27 and December 15 and resulted in the theft of names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and debit and credit card data of people who shopped at the retailer during those dates.
"I am writing to make you aware that your name, mailing address, phone number or e-mail address may have been taken during the intrusion," Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel wrote in the e-mail. "I am truly sorry this incident occurred and sincerely regret any inconvenience it may cause you. Because we value you as a guest and your trust is important to us, Target is offering one year of free credit monitoring to all Target guests who shopped in US stores, through Experian's ProtectMyID product which includes identity theft insurance where available."
The practice of payment card skimming at point-of-sale terminals has become more frequent in recent years. Bookseller Barnes & Noble discovered in fall 2012 that hackers had broken into keypads at more than 60 locations around the US and made off with customers' credit card data. That same month, two Romanian men pleaded guilty to hacking point-of-sale terminals at hundreds of Subway sandwich stores in the US to steal credit card information from more than 146,000 accounts.