Target apologizes for data breach, offers 10% discount, credit monitor
by Susan Tompor
As shoppers made their way into the final big shopping weekend before Christmas, Target found itself re-assuring customers about the latest data breach that might involve up to 40 million credit and debit card accounts.
Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel apologized through a statement issued Friday. The retailer also said it's working hard to resolve the problem and is adding more workers to field calls and help solve website issues. Target began offering a limited 10% off for customers who shop on Saturday and Sunday only and free credit monitoring services to those who have been affected by the issue.
The 10% discount is not valid in Canada or where prohibited by law. It applies to an entire purchase, not just one item. Target said any exclusions will be posted on its ad board inside stores. No need for a coupon.
Understandably, some consumers found themselves confused Friday.
Mike Harrison in Farmington said Target had already e-mailed his wife Joan about the issue, but he wondered if that message might be part of some fraud.
The e-mail was legitimate. Target told me that it is reaching out to its customers via e-mail and social media.
“We expect that all e-mails will be sent by the end of the weekend,” said Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for Target, headquartered in Minneapolis.
Obviously, if you get any e-mail in the next few days that asks for your Social Security number or bank account number, just kill it. Do not ever give out any personal information via e-mail. The Target e-mail does not ask for such data.
Just because you get an e-mail from Target, it doesn't mean there's been any fraud on your credit or debit card.
“We are working around the clock to resolve this issue by continually adding capacity both to our call center and technical systems to meet all of our guests' needs,” Snyder said.
Potentially at risk are customers who have shopped in Target's U.S. stores — not online or in Canada — between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.
Target said it has quadrupled the capacity of its online REDcard account management site.
“We want to reassure guests that they will not be held financially responsible for any credit card or debit card fraud,” Snyder said.
Target also stressed a few new points on Friday:
So far there isn't any indication that fraudsters have customer PIN numbers.
If a hacker does not have a PIN, they could not use ATMs to take out cash with a fraudulent card.
Data such as customer Social Security numbers and birth dates appear to be safe.
Target confirmed Thursday that the information involved included the customer's name, credit or debit card number, and the card's expiration date and CVV.
Target also cleared up some confusion on that three-digit or four-digit code on the back of the card. Target said the CVV code data that was impacted was a code in the magnetic strip.
Target said the hackers did not get another CVV code, which is the visible three-digit or four-digit code that's stamped on the back of cards. Without the three-digit or four-digit codes, a hacker would not have be able to use that code to make online purchases.
Target said it has provided card numbers of affected customers to the major card issuers, Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express so they're better able to be on alert for fraud monitoring.
Snyder noted that there is no immediate need to cancel Target REDcards or any other credit or debit cards that could have been impacted.
If you see something suspicious after monitoring accounts, contact Target. Or contact your bank if you used another credit card at Target.
Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com, said consumers should keep a close eye on their accounts.
“But if a data breach morphs into unauthorized usage, then issuers will be quick to reissue card account numbers,” McBride said.
City, Public Safety not disclosing youth crime info
by TEDDY KULMALA
The Aiken Department of Public Safety has suspended the release of even the most general details of crimes involving juvenile defendants while awaiting an opinion from the S.C. Attorney General, a move prompted by a local media outlet's request for information on an alleged sexual assault at Aiken Middle School. The action means the public may not even know when, where or if a crime occurred if it involves minors – potentially breaking state law under the Freedom of Information Act.
A woman representing herself as an Aiken Middle School parent sent The Jail Report, a local newspaper featuring arrested individuals that also carries a large Facebook following, a private message on Facebook about an alleged sexual assault at the school a month ago, according to Greg Rickabaugh, publisher of The Jail Report.
An attorney for the S.C. Press association said on Thursday the city's actions clearly violate the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.
Rickabaugh said he requested the incident report of the alleged assault from Aiken Public Safety and was told he needed to file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the information.
“I told them, 'I don't expect the name of the suspect or name of the victim,'” he told the Aiken Standard. One week after filing the request, Rickabaugh said the department denied the request, saying it couldn't release information on juvenile defendants.
Aiken Public Safety said in a statement on Wednesday that the City solicitor has requested the opinion of the attorney general's office on the release of information involving minor defendants.
The statement refers to a section of South Carolina code regarding the release of law enforcement records involving juvenile defendants: S.C. Code, Section 63-19-2030.
That law, according to the statement, specifies that police records involving juveniles are confidential and therefore not subject to public inspection, even under FOIA.
The statement says the City and Public Safety understand the importance of FOIA and the public's “right to know,” but added that the legality of releasing information involving minor defendants “has come into question.” It goes on to say that there is no South Carolina case law or prior opinion from the attorney general that addresses these questions.
“Until the legality of the release of information involving minor defendants has been addressed, or we are ordered by the court to do so, we are suspending the public release of incident reports involving minor defendants,” the statement reads.
Lt. Jake Mahoney said The Jail Report requested information on “a case involving a minor defendant.” A minor, or juvenile, is anyone under the age of 17.
“Upon review by our legal staff, we wanted to make sure that we were legally allowed to release that information based on the confidentiality laws in the children's code,” he said. “ ... I can't comment on what specific case led to this inquiry.”
City Solicitor Paige Tiffany sent a letter to Attorney General Alan Wilson on Dec. 12 asking for an opinion.
“At this time, I am requesting an opinion as to whether an incident report involving a juvenile subject can be released if the identifying information is redacted or whether the incident report must be maintained confidentially in its entirety,” she wrote in the letter. “Further, may the Aiken Department of Public Safety even confirm or deny such a report has been made and, if so, if it resulted in an arrest?”
A spokesman for Wilson's office could only confirm they have received the report. Tiffany said it will take “a couple of weeks” for the attorney general's office to produce the opinion.
If the attorney general releases an opinion that incident reports involving juvenile defendants must remain public, Tiffany said it's likely the reports that have been kept locked would be redacted and placed in the incident books – a practice Public Safety already was doing until this particular incident.
“The City of Aiken supports the Freedom of Information Act under all circumstances,” she said. “We'd just like some air on releasing the information. But in this situation, with a statute especially that states violating incident law, there are criminal sanctions for violating juvenile law enforcement records.”
Jay Bender, an attorney for the S.C. Press Association, said Aiken Public Safety has taken “an incorrect position under the law” by suspending the release of the incident reports.
“All you can do is redact the information that the law allows you to redact,” he said, which includes blacking out the juvenile's name and anything that can identify a juvenile.
“They need to figure it out and release the information without the juvenile's name,” Bender said. “The only thing that's protected is the juvenile's name, not the fact that the event happened.”
The law says that the name of a juvenile involved in the court system may be withheld, and typically, the name of any sexual assault victim (regardless of age) is withheld, according to Bender. Still, the law doesn't say an entire record may be withheld.
“You're entitled to know the circumstances of the assault to the extent it doesn't identify the defendant or the victim,” he said. “You should be able to find out the day it happened, the place it happened and any investigation that's taking place.”
Mahoney emphasized the department's decision only pertains to public reports with juvenile defendants, and that the department still releases the information to school officials and victims as required by law. Additionally, incident reports involving adult defendants in which a juvenile is mentioned are still available for public inspection as long as all identifying information regarding the juvenile is redacted.
“We want to make sure that our actions we've been doing in the past are legal,” he said. “We understand the sensitivity and the importance of the public's right to know. If we're releasing information that we shouldn't, we could be held criminally liable.”
Chief Charles Barranco, director of Aiken Public Safety, declined to comment beyond what Mahoney said.
“We're not trying to say we believe the public doesn't have a right to know,” Barranco said. “We just want to make sure we have the right to give it to them.”
Calls were made to Mayor Fred Cavanaugh, which were not returned by press time, and to City Manager Richard Pierce, who deferred to Tiffany.
Identifying Threats To Public's Safety
A small unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation may be paving the way for state governments in search of a system that could help prevent mass shootings and violence, not through weapons bans, but through threat assessment and mental health treatment.
It is clear most of those who decide to carry out mass shootings are very disturbed people. They are mentally ill. And many of them obtained their weapons through entirely legal means, unlikely to be changed by legislation.
According to the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, nearly 150 shootings and violent attacks were stopped this year by helping local authorities assess the threat presented by a person of concern. The Behavioral Threat Assessment Center then makes recommendations based on specific cases - arrest, if there has been illegal activity, or mental health care.
By many accounts, such an assessment might have stopped gunmen like Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Lanza was described by too many who knew him as "troubled," with a fascination with violence that was apparent to teachers and acquaintances. But his case did not reach the small FBI unit that might have stopped him and gotten him help.
After Sandy Hook, President Barack Obama said, "We're going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun," but quickly got caught up in gun-control frenzy, and has not since promoted programs like the Behavioral Analysis Unit.
States and other federal agencies need their own method for heading off the next mass shooting or act of violence. Though the FBI has reportedly stopped hundreds of incidents since 2011, it is, sadly, too great a task for one small group of people. It may not be perfect, but relevant agencies across the country might look to the Behavioral Analysis Unit as a template for their own effort to improve access to mental health care for those ready to snap.