Though only a small percentage of their customers have been affected by the recent data breach at Target stores, local banks say they’re working to protect accounts and information.

Customers who made purchases at Target stores across the country between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 were affected by the data breach. The stolen data includes customers’ names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates, PIN data and the three-digit security codes located on the back of the cards.

Target has not yet said on how the breach occurred. Spokespersons for the company have also said that stolen PIN data was ‘strongly encrypted’ and remains secure.

Sam Gault, president of Nicollet County Bank in St. Peter, said he is unsure how many of the financial institution’s customers were affected by the breach but that the number was ‘substantial.’

“We’ve accumulated the data to find out who used their card during those cards during those specific times,” Gault said. “We will send out a letter to those affected soon.”

Some residents have already reported fraudulent transactions, he said.

“Many of them have called us,” Gault said. “And we’ve worked with them in the way they wanted to proceed.”

The bank will reissue debit cards for anyone affected free of charge, he said. Customers should continue to monitor their accounts and keep an eye on their transactions to make sure they’re legitimate.

Tom Gengler, retail services manager for First National Bank of Minnesota, said impact on the financial institution has been zero or minimal. The institution sent out letters late last month alerting customers affected by the breach.

“For our bank, our response, our attempt was to be proactive, reach out to customers who used their card at Target during that time frame,” Gengler said.

Customers were given the option to cancel their cards or monitor their accounts. In many cases, if fraudulent charges are reported to First National Bank, customers aren’t held responsible, he said.

But it’s still important for people to monitor their accounts.

“If anyone notices a charge that isn’t one of theirs, the more proactive they are the better,” Gengler said. “The sooner we know about the fraudulent charge, the sooner we can take care of it.”

Kathy Vogel, of Hometown Bank in St. Peter, said about 100 of its customers were affected.

The branch put temporary blocks on any affected cards and called those customers within two days of the breach being made public, she said.

Customers were given the option to cancel their card and get a new one free of charge or keep monitoring their accounts for fraudulent activity.

“If they thought they were affected or know they were affected I would just suggest keeping an eye on their account going forward,” Vogel said.

The breach has some local residents, like Allison Kim, thinking about the risks of using credit and debit cards instead of cash.

“I think it’s kind of alarming that they didn’t discover the issue for over half a month, and during Black Friday/Christmas shopping,” said Kim on Facebook. “I don’t usually shop at Target, so I’m not worried for myself, but it does make a person think twice about using cards in general. Cards are convenient, but cash is starting to seem like a safer bet nowadays.”

Others, though not affected by the breach, have been affected by similar ones.

Kadie Stone Davis, who commented on the St. Peter Herald Facebook page, said both her and her husband were forced to order new debit cards after shopping at other major retail stores.

She said she will continue to shop at Target despite the breach.

“I feel like this is an unfortunate risk of doing business in methods other than cash transactions — everything done via the internet, etc,” Davis wrote. “Best we can hope for is that our banks are watching out for us and that there continue to be legal protections for consumers in cases of fraud such as this.”

Reach reporter Jessica Bies at 507-931-8568 or follow her on @sphjessicabies

Reach reporter Jessica Bies at 507-931-8568 or follow her on @sphjessicabies

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