"I wrote them a check!" said 91-year-old Robert Olsten as he left the store with about $50 worth of Christmas gifts.
Olsten said he'd heard the story on the radio Thursday morning and decided against putting his purchases on his Discover card as he would have.
Victoria Jones took the opposite approach. The 42-year-old Santa Rosa resident chose to put her cart-load of purchases on a credit card instead of her debit card, reasoning it was smarter to let the credit card company bear the risk instead of the hard-earned cash in her checking account.
"I went to swipe my debit card and went, 'Wait a minute!'" Jones said.
She said she knows she shopped at the store during the period in question, and will now keep an eye out for any unusual activity on her account.
As word of the theft spread, banking and credit union officials on the North Coast urged cardholders to monitor their accounts and report any suspicious activity. They assured customers they wouldn't be charged for any unauthorized transactions.
"They really shouldn't panic at this point," said Robin McKenzie, spokeswoman for Redwood Credit Union. "It's important to stay calm and realize they are not responsible for any fraudulent activity. They are covered."
McKenzie said the institution received about 300 calls from its 230,000 members expressing concern. But so far, none have reported losses, she said.
The credit union was not advising people who shopped at Target during the period to apply for new cards.
Brad Hunter, senior vice president of Exchange Bank, said he had not heard of any customers falling victim either. But he said as many as 4,000 of the 50,000 people who had bank debit cards could have shopped at Target during the busy holiday season.
Hunter said an area of concern is Target's store-issued charge card known as the Red Card, which can be tied to checking accounts.
He said bank officials were watching closely to see if the card will add any exposure to bank customers.
But like at other institutions, Exchange Bank card holders will not be liable for any losses associated with the fraud. Any suspicious purchases will be flagged by a computer and capped before exceeding about $400.
"It has the potential to look like the Albertsons breach from earlier this year," Hunter said. "If it comes to that, we will reissue cards to holders who have been through the store in that time frame. If customers have concerns they can call and get a new card."
Hunter said the banking industry is moving toward a new system expected to come on line in 2015 that would make retailers responsible for losses, he said.
Right now, banks are on the hook. Stores like Target face only damage to their reputations, he said.
"It might hurt holiday sales but they won't have to pay for it," Hunter said. "Our bank and other issuers will take the loss."
Target acknowledged the breach a day after news reports surfaced that the store was conducting an investigation. The theft did not affect online purchases, the store said.
Information was stolen from Target brand cards and major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard.
The store said it immediately informed authorities and financial institutions when it became aware of the breach Dec. 15.