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Robert Trigaux

Card breach at Suncoast Schools credit union part of larger hacker trend



TomDoretysuncoastfcucunaphoto Wake up and good morning. Now it's Tampa-based Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union's turn to tell customers there was a recent a breach in their Visa check cards. In a message on its Web site, Suncoast FCU said a hacker may have gained access to card information through one of multiple payment systems.

The breach apparently affected thousands of financial institutions and millions of cardholders, Suncoast said. The credit union said it will reissue cards and personal identification numbers only to those members contained on the list of those compromised. Members were reminded that they are protected under Visa’s zero-liability fraud policyshould someone attempt fraudulent activity on their accounts. States the Suncoast Web site:

"There will absolutely be no interruptions of service to affected members. Please be assured your account with Suncoast is safe. As always we encourage you to monitor your account activity and contact us immediately should you find any discrepancies or unauthorized transactions."

Suncoast is hardly alone. An AP analysis shows the security behind credit and debit cards is weak, allowing for a growing number of hacker breaches, especially among retailers. More than 70 retailers and payment processors have disclosed breaches since 2006, involving tens of millions of credit and debit card numbers, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

According to the Fort Myers News-Press, Suncoast Schools FCU President Tom Dorety (show in photo, courtesy of CUNA) said Tuesday that credit union members may have cards whose information was stolen and used by criminals to make purchases. The illicit transactions are continuing, he acknowledged, but the credit union will cover them.

One affected customer is David Crook, 63, a retired code enforcement supervisor for Fort Myers. "It was weird," he told the News-Press. "We were on a kayak trip and got a phone call, one of those automated ones, on my wife's phone, asking if she'd authorized anyone to use the card in Logansville, Ga."

When they got home, Crook said, "I checked the account and found four other charges. They all were either Shell stations or other convenience stores." Total damage? $399, he said. The credit union is reimbursing Crook.

In March, $5.8 billion Suncoast Schools and $1.9 billion GTE Federal Credit Union in Tampa announced their intentions to merge. If approved, the combined financial institution would have $7.6 billion in assets and serve nearly 675,000 members.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:25am]


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