About 1,000 West Shore Bank customers notified debit cards compromised

Nov. 3, 2006

Joe Boomgaard, Daily Staff Writer


Roughly 1,000 West Shore Bank customers have been notified this week that their debit card number may have been compromised after the bank was notified of the issue by Master Card.

“Master Card said there was a security break at a common point-of-purchase provider… sometime this summer,” said West Shore Bank’s Jeremy Holmes. “It wasn’t our system — our system wasn’t compromised. It was a third party that the customers went to. The information was accessed in their system.”

Master Card would not comment on the specific incident, citing the ongoing investigation.

“In response to a potential security breach at a US-based retailer, MasterCard notified the affected banks that issue MasterCard cards to monitor for any suspicious account activity and take the necessary steps to protect cardholders,” stated Chris Harrall, a member of Master Card’s Global Security and Risk Communications Division, in an e-mail to the Daily News.

“MasterCard is concerned whenever cardholders are inconvenienced and we will continue to monitor this event. As usual, if a MasterCard cardholder is concerned about their individual account, they should contact their issuing financial institution.

“In the U.S. and elsewhere, cardholders are protected by MasterCard’s Zero Liability policy for unauthorized transactions and are not liable for those charges.”

According to Holmes, someone apparently gained access to the West Shore Bank’s card numbers, which could have given them access to the card holder’s bank account.

“Someone could potentially make charges to the account,” Holmes said.

Holmes didn’t know which company had the security break.

“We weren’t provided with a lot of information,” he said. “What we know is that we were given a listing of debit card numbers that were potentially compromised.”

When asked if the card issue was tied to Wesco’s announcement of a security breach, Holmes said he was only notified what happened and the timeframe of the incident, not of the company that had the problem.

“(Master Card) doesn’t tell us where only that it was somewhere in the US,” Holmes said. “But I imagine that it could be (a major merchant in the area).”

Holmes didn’t know how many debit cards the bank issued, but he said the recall represented a significant proportion of West Shore Bank’s debit card cardholders.

“We’ve never had the number of cards affected like we did in this breach,” Holmes said.

West Shore Bank credit cards might also be affected, according to Holmes, but those cards are distributed through a third party. The bank was in contact with the credit card company about the matter, he said.

West Shore Bank had 12 to 15 people on staff dedicated to calling the affected cardholders about the issue and will soon be mailing a letter to all of them. All of the people contacted will be issued new cards with new numbers, Holmes said. The bank is aiming to have those available within a week.

“All of the cards have been hot carded and people are not able to use them,” Holmes said. “It is an inconvenience, but we look at that as us trying to protect the customer.”

Holmes reiterated this case of credit card fraud was the responsibility of the merchant being breached, not the cardholders.

“In general, this was more for the merchant,” Holmes said. “I don’t know any precaution consumers could have done — this was all on the merchant.”

None of the other area banks the Daily News contacted were recalling their debit cards.

“It’s always been our practice (to replace cards) when we know of any breach where our customers’ information has been compromised,” Holmes said. “We generally like to replace the cards as soon as possible.”

Holmes said any West Shore Bank customers who used their old bank cards to set up so-called EZ Pay transactions might also want to double-check with the institutions to see if their accounts have been affected and to change card numbers to the new cards, once they become available.

West Shore Bank will reimburse customers if any fraudulent charges were made, Holmes said.

Darla Keillor, branch manager of the downtown Fifth Third Bank, said she was not aware of any serious issues dealing with Fifth Third customers. Likewise, Dan Sleeman of National City Bank said he didn’t know of any security breach affecting his customers.

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