Published March 30, 2012
Dow Jones Newswires
A "massive" security breach of potentially more than 10 million Visa and MasterCard credit cards could leave you exposed to fraud and means you will have to be on guard over your accounts and credit reports.
Visa Inc. (V) and MasterCard Inc. (MA) have alerted banks nationwide Friday about specific credit cards that may have been compromised at a U.S.-based card processor and are investigating the situation, according to the Krebs on Security.com blog.
The processor has been identified as Global Payments Inc. (GPN), an Atlanta firm that acts as a third-party processor of credit, debit and gift cards for banks and merchants, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The card associations have told banks that the break-in to the system occurred between Jan. 21 and Feb. 25 and that information stolen could be used to counterfeit new cards.
In a statement, MasterCard said that law enforcement is involved and that there is an "ongoing forensic review" by an outside "data-security organization." Visa representatives did not respond to requests for information.
Banks are scrutinizing transactions on compromised accounts and have found common purchases in parking garages in and around the New York City area, according to the Krebs on Security blog, which is written by Brian Krebs, formerly a reporter with the Washington Post. At least 482 credit unions also have been alerted by a provider of online financial services to the industry, the blog said, and fraudulent activity has been uncovered on 876 accounts, a relatively small number of the 56,455 member accounts covered by this particular service provider.
If you're worried that your information was stolen, contact the bank that issued the card. Visa and MasterCard don't actually issue cards but process the transactions for the bank issuer.
"One of the first things consumers should do is pull a copy of their credit report," said Dave Blumberg, a spokesman for TransUnion, the credit-rating agency. The report will list all the cards you have open, alerting you to any new accounts that you may not have opened. You also can get a free credit report every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com.
If your card was stolen, you're liable, under federal law, for up to $50 of unauthorized credit or debit transactions. In cases like this, though, you're not likely to be responsible for any charges.
Yet you could open yourself to greater risk with your debit card if you don't report the fraud quickly or respond within 60 days to a bank statement that shows the fraud. Keep close tabs on your debit account because you could lose all the money in it if it's not reported.
You might also want to place a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit reports to stay vigilant. Those, however, generally only last a year and will have to be renewed.