Credit Card Breach

Thursday, February 19, 2009 - 7:46pm

Cyber criminals broke into the computer system of a major U.S. company. Now, banks across the country, including here in Baton Rouge, are taking steps to protect your credit card information. That company processed hundreds of millions of credit card transactions, but as we found out financial institutions took immediate action when they spotted the first sign of trouble.

Gary Henninger satisfied his sweet tooth Thursday afternoon. It was a small purchase and one of the few times he pulls out his plastic. “If I have control of it like giving it to a person like that in the store that I can watch.” But even being able to see the transaction doesn’t ensure his credit card is safe. In fact, millions of transactions were compromised at the end of 2008. Heartland Payment Systems says cybercriminals hacked into its computer system. The company processes payments for 250,000 businesses nationwide.

The data stolen s enough to allow the intruders to make purchasers over the phone and on the web, even to fabricate counterfeit cards. Experts are calling this the biggest security breach made public in recent history, but Kathi Gill, CEO of Neighbors Federal Credit Union, says the problem is under control. “Just because your information may have been compromised doesn’t necessarily mean there is going to be fraudulent information on your account.”

But, Gill says breaches happen more frequently than the average person knows. “We receive 3-5 a week.” At Neighbors, Gill says they normally know about fraudulent activity before a member does. “We have so many measures in place to protect members’ identities, to protect their accounts, and to make sure fraud doesn’t happen.”

Gill says she understands why people are alarmed, but she assures banks are doing their best to keep customers safe. “It is frustrating because it looks bad on the financial institutions and really it’s not the financial institutions in this case, it’s the merchant processors”

Investigators say the hackers didn’t get a hold of social security numbers or addresses. They’re still trying to figure out whether any other companies were affected.