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Update: Scope of credit card security breach expands

HSBC Bank is just one of several institutions whose customers may be affected

April 15, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Discover Financial Services Inc. today joined Mastercard International and Visa U.S.A. Inc. in confirming that some of its card holders were also affected by a security problem involving a point-of-sale (POS) system at retailer Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.
A spokeswoman from Discover said that the company has been informing affected card holders of the problem but declined to say how many cards are involved or how long the company has been sending out the letters.
"It was an incident that impacted the credit card industry as a whole," said Discover spokeswoman Jennifer Kang. "We have taken appropriate steps to ensure that card members are safe" from any potential fraud, she said.
The security breach came to light earlier this week when HSBC Bank PLC started sending out letters warning 180,000 of its credit card holders of potential ID thefts.
Visa and MasterCard both confirmed yesterday that they had been notified of the breach and had in turn notified several banks and credit card companies of the potential data compromise. They declined to say how many companies have been notified.
Since Monday, HSBC North America Holdings Inc., a division of London-based HSBC Holdings PLC, has been asking holders of its General Motors Corp.-branded MasterCard to replace their cards because their confidential information may have been compromised (see story).
Thomas Nicholson, an HSBC spokesman, said yesterday that the problem stemmed from a faulty POS system at a national U.S. retail chain, which he didn't identify.
Nancy Murray, a Polo Ralph Lauren spokeswoman, late yesterday confirmed the company's involvement in an e-mailed statement to Computerworld.
"The company did learn that certain credit card information may have been retained and stored in its point of sale software. The company took immediate steps to purge this data and cure the problem," the statement read.
The statement also noted that Polo Ralph Lauren has been working with law enforcement officials and credit card companies since fall 2004 to determine the origin and extent of the compromise. "The company is confident that its credit card system is secure, and that our customers' credit card information is properly protected," it added.

Foster City, Calif.-based Visa said in a statement that it has been working with "the merchant, law enforcement and the affected member financial institutions to monitor and prevent card-related fraud. While we must respect the sensitive nature of this ongoing investigation, it's important for cardholders to know they are fully protected against unauthorized purchases with Visa's zero liability fraud protection policy."
Kim Forde, a spokeswoman with American Express said the company is aware of a "potential data compromise"

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