BR woman files lawsuit in Target stores data breach

A Baton Rouge-area woman who claims to be a victim of Target’s massive pre-Christmas data breach is suing the nation’s second largest discounter, alleging the company was negligent in failing to safeguard her credit and debit card information.

Amy Christina, in a lawsuit filed Thursday at U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, describes herself as a regular Target shopper and says she used her credit/debit card at a Target store in the nine-parish Middle District of Louisiana between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.

Target initially announced Dec. 19 that some 40 million credit and debit card accounts had been affected by a data breach between those dates, just as the holiday shopping season was ramping up.

But on Jan. 10, Target disclosed that the breach was significantly more extensive and affected millions more shoppers than the company first reported. Target said hackers stole personal information — including names, phone numbers and email and mailing addresses — from roughly 70 million customers.

Christina contends her identifying and financial information were disclosed in the data breach.

Her suit says the type of data stolen allows crooks to create counterfeit cards by encoding the information onto any card with a magnetic swipe strip.

“The thieves may also have accessed PIN numbers for affected customers’ debit cards, allowing the thieves to withdraw money from those customers’ bank accounts,” the suit states.

“Thieves could not have accessed this information and installed the software on Target’s point-of-sale machines but for (Target’s) negligence,” the suit charges.

Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said Friday the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Christina’s attorney, New Orleans lawyer Camilo K. Salas III, could not be reached for comment.

Christina seeks to have her suit classified as a class action “on behalf of all others similarly situated.” The suit says Christina’s claims and the claims of potential class members could exceed $5 million.

Her suit says the ramifications of Target’s alleged failure to keep customers’ data secure are severe.

“The information (Target) lost … is ‘as good as gold’ to identity thieves, in the words of the Federal Trade Commission,” the suit alleges.

The FTC estimates as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Annual monetary losses from identity theft are in the billions of dollars.

Thieves can use identifying data to open new financial accounts and run up charges in another person’s name, take out loans in another person’s name, incur charges on existing accounts or clone ATM, debt and credit cards.

“Plaintiff and the Class she seeks to represent now face years of constant surveillance of their financial and personal records, monitoring, and loss of rights,” Christina’s suit states.

Target is doing what it can to keep customers happy, including guaranteeing zero liability for the cost of any fraudulent charges stemming from the breach and offering one year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to all guests who shopped at its U.S. stores.

The Baton Rouge-based U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana covers the parishes of East and West Baton Rouge, East and West Feliciana, Ascension, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee and St. Helena.