Some banks reissuing debit cards in wake of Target security breach

December 20, 2013
A passerby walks near an entrance to a Target retail store Thursday in Watertown, Mass. Target says about 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been affected by a data breach that occurred just as the holiday shopping season shifted into high gear. - Associated Press

Some area financial institutions said Friday they were responding to retailer Target’s credit and debit card breach by assigning new debit cards to customers who recently shopped at the chain.

But at least one bank said it was not reissuing any cards.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Minneapolis-based Target said about 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been affected by a data breach that occurred at its U.S. stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.

The stolen data includes customer names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates and the three-digit security codes located on the backs of cards.

Neil Bassi, president of Charleroi Federal, said Friday his bank began looking at its customers’ recent check card account activities as soon as it learned of the credit card breach.

“We immediately made a decision to cancel” bank cards of customers who used them at Target and to reissue new ones, Bassi said.

Meanwhile, Washington Financial Bank spokeswoman Betty Guerrieri said bank employees spent Friday looking for affected customers and contacting them about the process to reissue cards.

Guerrieri said the current debit cards of Washington Financial customers who shopped at Target during that time span will remain valid until they receive new cards in the mail and activate them.

“We’re going to make the best effort we can to get in touch with everyone (Friday). I don’t know how long the process will take for the reissuance, but we’re doing everything possible to get them new cards as fast as possible,” Guerrieri said.

“We’re most concerned about our customers and their ability to use their cards, but financial security is the highest priority.”

However, she admitted the security breach could not have come at a worse time as shoppers make a final push before Christmas.

“Of all the times of the year for this to happen,” Guerrieri said. “But we’re doing everything we can to protect our customers.”

Bassi said letters to Charleroi Federal’s affected customers were mailed by late Wednesday, while the bank also attempted to contact customers by phone.

One Charleroi Federal customer, Randi Marodi of Bentleyville, who said she used her card at the Strabane Square Target store last week, was unaware of her bank’s decision when her card was rejected twice at two area self-service gasoline stations Thursday evening and at another Friday morning.

Marodi, who works in the Washington County commissioners office, said when she tried again to use the card at the ATM machine in the county office building Friday, the machine retained the card.

She said her husband learned from the bank Friday that hers was among the cards Charleroi Federal had canceled because it was used at Target.

“I’m kind of glad they did it, because it was such a huge breach of security,” Marodi said. “It’s nice to know if I can’t use my card that whoever breached the security can’t use it, either.” She noted that her husband’s card with Charleroi Federal wasn’t affected because he hadn’t used it at Target.

Bassi said a large security breach several years ago at retailer TJX Companies, operator of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores, which exposed at least 45.7 million credit and debit cards to possible fraud, prompted his bank to take quick action when it learned of the similar situation at Target.

He declined to say how many cards the bank would have to reissue as a result of the Target security breach.

“It was a small proportion to our deposit base,” he said.

He said it will take about a week for customers to receive the new cards.

Like Guerrieri, he acknowledged the timing of the decision couldn’t have come at a worse time, but added that the bank wanted to be proactive in protecting its customers.

“It’s unfortunate for this to happen at this time of the year,” he said.

PNC spokeswoman Marcey Zwiebel said the bank is monitoring the breach but does not have plans to replace any debit cards because of the bank’s “thorough and comprehensive process” to target fraudulent activity.

She said PNC is encouraging people to closely watch their accounts for any unauthorized purchases, but customers will not be held responsible or be required to pay for them if it occurs.

“We’re encouraging them to continue using their existing cards,” Zwiebel said. “We’re letting them know there’s no need to request a replacement card solely for this breach.”

Michael Bradwell has been business editor for the Observer-Reporter since 1995, and was named editor of The Energy Report in 2012. He joined the newspaper in 1990 as a general assignment reporter in the Greene County bureau and has also worked as a copy editor. A 1974 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a degree in English, he began his career at the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette. Prior to joining the O-R, he served as public relations director for Old Bedford Village, account executive at two Pittsburgh public relations agencies and copywriter for the country’s largest wholesaler of mutual funds.

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Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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