Target Confirms Massive Data Breach

Morning Money Memo…

Customers shop at a Target Corp. store opening ahead of Black Friday in Chicago, Nov. 28, 2013. Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

If you shopped at a Target store since Thanksgiving you might have been a victim of identity theft. The big retailer was hit by a brazen breach of customers' credit and debit card information. As many as 40 million accounts may have been compromised. A statement this morning from Target "confirmed it is aware of unauthorized access to payment card data," and is "working closely with law enforcement and financial institutions."

The breach happened at stores across the country, not online. "What is most likely the case is that some piece of software along the chain of processing credit card transactions was compromised by something similar to a computer virus," says Clifford Neuman at the Center for Computer Systems Security at the University of Southern California.

For consumers who become victims of identity theft, "it is much easier to resolve an issue of a fraudulent credit card charge than it is a debit card," says Neuman. Shoppers have more protections with a credit card.

"Every time we see one of these breaches occur, it is yet another message this is a dangerous world," says identity theft expert Adam Levin, founder of "People have to become more aware that they had to be more serious about protecting their information and their identity."

Good news for the economy was good news for the stock market. Investors appear pleased with the latest move by the Federal Reserve, which is planning to gradually phase out its monthly bond buying program. The stimulus has been aimed at sparking growth. With recent improvements for the economy the Fed decided to act. Stocks surged. The Dow Jones index rose 293 points Wednesday, a gain of nearly 2 percent. Overseas markets are mostly higher today in response to U.S. stocks.

Honda tops the insurance industry's annual list of the safest new vehicles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives 39 vehicles top safety ratings for 2014, and eight of them are made by Honda. The total is dramatically fewer than the 130 on the list last year because of new tougher standards. Vehicles now need both top crash test scores and a good front crash prevention system, such as warning systems or automatic braking, to get its highest designation.

Ever since Europe's financial and debt crisis the region's leaders have been looking for a way prevent a banking collapse in the future. They may have come up with one solution. European finance ministers are reported have reached a political agreement on how to set up a new institution to help stabilize the banking system. The European rescue agency will be financed by $76 billion levy on banks over 10 years

Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio Twitter: daviesnow

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