Target Gives Shoppers a New Meaning for ‘Black Friday’

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Bad news for Target shoppers, as it was revealed this week that hackers might have compromised roughly 40 million credit and debit card accounts.

The big-box retailer said customers who paid with their cards between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 could be susceptible to having their information mined or, worse, being victims of fraudulent charges.

Online shoppers need not to worry because Target said the breach only impacts transactions made in its brick and mortar locations.

Target reportedly contacted authorities and financial institutions immediately, and the company is working with a private investigators to prevent future incidents.

The retailer also is advising customers to check their statements carefully and if they see any unusual activity to contact their credit card companies immediately. Target added that customers should contact the company as well, and made it clear that it is justifiable to also reach out to law enforcement officials or the Federal Trade Commission.

So far, Target is keeping quiet about exactly how the security breach occurred—perhaps too quiet. The company has been relatively opaque in terms of helping its customers understand how this happened. Still, it has ensured consumers that there is no longer a threat.

It’s too soon to reasonably evaluate Target’s communication strategy. However, this incident should remind communicators about some of the new challenges they now face.

While digital technology has made our lives easier in many ways, it has also made us vulnerable to new threats, and PR pros have to be ready to address those threats quickly.

Other retailers like T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s have experienced similar problems. And the key to bouncing back has been to reinforce trust between the brand and consumers. For Target, that means making consumers feel safe when they safe when they slide their cards in the checkout line.

In that regard, Target has done the right thing; it reached out to authorities,  launched a private investigation, quickly released statements advising customers on the next steps and has communicated that the breach has been secured.

Nevertheless, time will tell how this impacts Target's top and bottom lines and its relationship with loyal consumers.

Follow Caysey Welton: @CayseyW