70 million customersThe Target breach that impacted millions of in-store customers in the midst of the holiday season became worse on Friday when the retail giant announced that 70 million customers were also affected by the breach, on top of the 40 million previously exposed. It is unclear how the information for the 70 million customers was breached.

What information was exposed?

The company stated that the hacked information for 70 million customers included mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. It did not state if the 40 million customers exposed as they shopped at stores location throughout the U.S. and Canada from Nov. 27 to Dec. 15, 2013 overlapped with the 70 million customers. Information revealed about the 40 million customers included names, debit and credit card numbers, card's expiration dates, CVV (card verification value) and encrypted PINs.

How can I keep my identity safe?

Since more personal information was released than originally explained, it's essential that in-store Target shoppers take immediate action to protect themselves from identity theft.

1. Sign up for identity theft protection: Target announced that it is offering one year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to customers who shopped at the U.S. stores. These customers will have three months to enroll in the program. The company has not released the name of the identity theft protection service or any other details, however it stated that it will announce more information the week of Jan. 13. Visit Target.com/databreach to learn all of the details.

Even though Target is taking some steps in the future to protect your identity, the company isn't allowing you to sign up for the protection yet, which is making your identity more vulnerable. Considering the breach occurred in November and December of last year, Target is not taking any action to protect your identity until more than one month after the breach. The chances of you falling victim to identity theft are more than likely to happen now rather than later because your stolen information is fresher and more accurate now as opposed to later after you've already taken steps to protect yourself. On top of that, Target has not released the name of the service or it's features so you don't know how effective it will be.

If you want to take your identity into your own hands, you could sign up for an identity theft protection today to make sure you're identity will remain safe. These services offer top-notch protection with real-time alerts to warn you of possible theft. And, our top-rated identity theft protection service Identity Guard offers a 30-day free trial, allowing you to get the protection you need for free. Visit our Identity Guard review to learn more about the service or sign up for Identity Guard to protect your identity today.

2. Monitor bank statements closely: Considering a lot of personal information was exposed in the data breach, you should carefully monitor your bank statements each month. Verify that you completed all of the transactions on your statement, and report any unfamiliar transactions to your bank as fraudulent activity. When you report the fraudulent activity, you should also make sure to ask your bank to reissue you a debit or credit card. You can always choose to inquire about a new debit or credit card number before you fall victim to fraudulent activity, however it's important to note that some banks might not take action until there is proof  — such as a fraudulent transaction — that your card has been compromised.

3. Change your PIN: Since there may be some overlapping between the 70 million and 40 million breached, it's wise to also change your PIN because there is a chance that the thieves can intercept any new debit or credit cards in the mail — considering they acquired your mailing address — and if you didn't change your PIN, then they'll be able to access all of your accounts. Even though the PINs were protected by secure encryption, it's still unknown if the thieves have access to this information and changing the PIN will just help protect yourself in the event that the new card is intercepted in the mail.

4. Watch for phishing emails and phony calls: The Target data breach revealed emails and phone numbers which means that the 70 million impacted may become targeted for phishing emails and phony calls from thieves attempting to gather more information about the them. Don't click on any links in an email, unless it is sent from someone you personally know and trust. Also, don't reveal any personal information to anyone calling you and claiming that they are a representative of your bank or doctor's office. Instead, hang up the phone and call the bank using the number on the back of the credit or debit card, or call your doctor by Googling the office's phone number. Once you can confirm that you need to take care of something with the bank or doctor, you can provide your personal information. If your doctor or bank cannot confirm that a representative tried to reach you or that there's no issue for you to take care of, you should call your cell phone provider and get the original phone number blocked.

5. Shred all junk mail: Considering the security breach revealed your mailing address, it's important for you to take caution when throwing away junk mail. Identity thieves have a reputation for dumpster diving to gather more information about their victims, which means that your garbage can may be the next target for the thieves. That's why you should invest in a shredder and shred any junk mail — especially pre-approved credit card offers — or documents containing personal information before you throw them in the trash. When you're picking a shredder, you should make sure it cross-shreds so it completely destroys the document and makes it impossible for identity thieves to put it back together.

If you feel that you've already fallen victim to identity theft because of the breach, follow the steps detailed on this blog to restore your good name and credit.

Identity Theft Protection, News, security breach, Target Breach