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Old 02-19-2003, 01:32 AM   #1
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Check your credit cards

Credit card hacker hits 8 million

8 million cardholders of Visa, MasterCard, Amex and Discover could be affected.
February 18, 2003: 6:27 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN) - Discover Financial Services and American Express Tuesday joined the list of credit-card companies saying a hacker breached a security system of a company that processes transactions on behalf of merchants.

Discover and American Express would not disclose how many accounts were involved. In a statement, MasterCard put the overall security breach at about eight million accounts, including 2.2 million of its own cards. Visa said 3.4 million of its cards were affected.

All four credit card companies declined to name the company whose security was hacked.

None of the original set of compromised Visa cards had been used fraudulently, Visa spokesman John Abrams said Monday. A MasterCard spokeswoman could not say whether any of its cards had been used fraudulently. American Express said there has been no fraud.

The affected accounts make up almost 1 percent of the 574 million Visa and MasterCard accounts in the United States. Spokesmen for the two companies said Monday they promptly notified the banks that issued the affected cards.

"We have notified our member financial institutions of the accounts involved, so that they may monitor each account for fraud and/or reissue cards as appropriate," MasterCard said in a statement.

The card companies have zero-liability policies, which protect the card holder from responsibility for any unauthorized or fraudulent charges. Consumer advocates recommend that you be vigilant in checking your credit card statement for any charges you did not make.

If you find any, alert the credit card issuer as soon as possible. Chances are you will need to do so in writing -- check the issuer's billing-error reporting procedure. If you can't find it anywhere on your latest statement, call the company and ask how such reports should be handled.

After it was notified by MasterCard last Friday, Citizens Bank, a financial institution serving the Northeast, shut down the accounts of 8,800 customers, bank spokeswoman Pamela Crawley said Monday. All those accounts were safe, she said.

The FBI is aiding in the investigation.
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