January 26, 2009

Keep a watchful eye...

Whether or not it was directly related to the article posted below, I had my credit card information jacked over the weekend. Somehow my credit card information was stolen and used to make a purchase.

Thankfully, I have Identity Theft Protection through Wells Fargo, and was instantly notified of some "questionable" transactions on my card.

I was able to catch it in time that the thieves were only able to get two transactions through, one for $1 that was declined when they incorrectly guessed the expiration date, and unfortunately one for $225 on craigslist that has been flagged as fraudulent.

Either way, I had to cancel both mine and Kim's cards and will be getting new ones soon enough. The charges will be reversed soon, but the lesson was learned. We have both placed Fraud alerts on our credit reports through Transunion so that if there are any attempts to gain credit on our accounts, we will be instantly notified.

It's probably a good idea to read the article below and pay close attention to your financial accounts, as its estimated that up to 200 million people, or 2/3 of the U.S. population, could be affected by this.

Ironically, my friend has his ATM card number and PIN stolen and had $500 taken from an ATM this same week. Both he and his wife still have their cards and have never misplaced them.

In both our cases, it seems as though the information was lifted using sophisticated information tracking and we are easier prey than I thought. You can never be too careful.


Payment Processor Breach May Be Largest Ever

"A data breach last year at Princeton, N.J., payment processor Heartland Payment Systems may have compromised tens of millions of credit and debit card transactions, the company said today.

If accurate, such figures may make the Heartland incident one of the largest data breaches ever reported.

Robert Baldwin, Heartland's president and chief financial officer, said the company, which processes payments for more than 250,000 businesses, began receiving fraudulent activity reports late last year from MasterCard and Visa on cards that had all been used at merchants which rely on Heartland to process payments.

Baldwin said 40 percent of transactions the company processes are from small to mid-sized restaurants across the country. He declined to name any well-known establishments or retail clients that may have been affected by the breach.

Baldwin said it would be unfair to mention any one of his company's customers.

"No merchant of ours represents even [one-tenth of one percent] of our volume, and to put out any name associated with what is obviously an unfortunate incident is not fair," he said. "Their customers might end up having their cards used fraudulently, but that fraud might turn out to have come from their store, or it might be from another Heartland store and no one will ever really know."

Heartland called U.S. Secret Service and hired two breach forensics teams to investigate. But Baldwin said it wasn't until last week that investigators uncovered the source of the breach: A piece of malicious software planted on the company's payment processing network that recorded payment card data as it was being sent for processing to Heartland by thousands of the company's retail clients.

Baldwin said Heartland does not know how long the malicious software was in place, how it got there or how many accounts may have been compromised. The stolen data includes names, credit and debit card numbers and expiration dates.

"The transactional data crossing our platform, in terms of magnitude... is about 100 million transactions a month," Baldwin said. "At this point, though, we don't know the magnitude of what was grabbed."

The company stressed that no merchant data or cardholder Social Security numbers, unencrypted personal identification numbers (PIN), addresses or telephone numbers were jeopardized as a result of the breach.

The data stolen includes the digital information encoded onto the magnetic stripe built into the backs of credit and debit cards. Armed with this data, thieves can fashion counterfeit credit cards by imprinting the same stolen information onto fabricated cards.

"The nature of the [breach] is such that card-not-present transactions are actually quite difficult for the bad guys to do because one piece of information we know they did not get was an address," Baldwin said. As a result, he said, the prospect of thieves using the stolen data to rack up massive amounts of fraud at online merchants "is not impossible, but much less likely."

In many cases where a processor experiences a breach, the affected banks may simply re-issue new cards to some customers. In other cases, consumers may spot the first signs of fraudulent activity by reviewing their bank statements. It is unclear whether consumers who receive new account numbers from their bank will ever be able to definitively tie the re-issuance to the Heartland breach.

Baldwin said it was not appropriate for Heartland to offer affected consumers credit protection or other identity theft protection services.

"Identity theft protection is appropriate when there is enough personal information lost that identity theft is possible," he said. "In this case, the amount of information we know they did not get is long enough that except in very circumscribed cases identity theft is just not possible. At the same time, we recognize and feel badly about the inconvenience this is going to cause consumers."

Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst with Gartner Inc., questioned the timing of Heartland's disclosure -- a day in which many Americans and news outlets are glued to coverage of Barack Obama's inauguration as the nation's 44th president.

"This looks like the biggest breach ever disclosed, and they're doing it on inauguration day?" Litan said. "I can't believe they waited until today to disclose. That seems very deceptive."

Officials from the U.S. Secret Service could not be immediately reached for comment.

Baldwin said Heartland worked to disclose the breach last week.

"Due to legal reviews, discussions with some of the players involved, we couldn't get it together and signed off on until today," Baldwin said. "We considered holding back another day, but felt in the interests of transparency we wanted to get this information out to cardholders as soon as possible, recognizing of course that this is not an ideal day from the perspective of visibility."

The Heartland disclosure follows a year of similar breach disclosures at several major U.S. cards processors. On December 23, RBS Worldpay, a subsidiary of Citizens Financial Group Inc., said a breach of its payment systems may have affected more than 1.5 million people.

In March 2008, Hannaford Brothers Co. disclosed that a breach of its payment systems -- also aided by malicious software -- compromised at least 4.2 million credit and debit card accounts.

In early 2007, TJX Companies Inc., the parent of retailers Marshalls and TJ Maxx said a number of breaches over a three-year period exposed more than 45 million credit and debit card numbers.

In 2005, a breach at payment card processor CardSystems Solutions jeopardized roughly 40 million credit and debit card accounts."

2 comments:

Barb said...

Scary! That's one thing I loved about Ry working at the bank - he was always checking our account. You can never be too careful!

Meet The Thompson's said...

Hey . Do you know how to post videos from Utube on blogs?

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