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August 19th, 2009

Theft of 130,000,000 Credit/Debit Card #s Not a Big Deal?



Three men have been indicted in what the Department of Justice is calling “the single largest hacking and identity theft case ever prosecuted.” Albert Gonzalez and two other unnamed individuals hacked the computer systems of several large corporations, accessing the debit and credit card information stored on their databases:

Authorities say more than 130 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen in a corporate data breach involving three different corporations and two individuals. The card numbers, along with additional account information, were allegedly stolen from Princeton-based Heartland Payment Systems; 7-Eleven Inc., a Texas-based convenience store chain and Hannaford Brothers Company, a Maine-based supermarket chain.

According to the Justice Department, the suspects used a sophisticated hacking technique called an “SQL injection attack,” which “seeks to exploit computer networks by finding a way around the network’s firewall to steal credit card and debit information.”

Time to Worry?

Oddly enough, personal finance expert Clark Howard says “you shouldn’t really be concerned!” Howard says the massive breach “is not a big deal for the average credit card holder.”

For credit card customers, Howard instructs that if you notice fraudulent charges on your next statement, simply dispute them. Since major banks and card companies will be familiar with the news, they should be ready and waiting to handle the incoming disputes by issuing new cards with new numbers.

However, things may be more difficult for debit card holders:

There are no ironclad protections for debit cards as there are for credit cards. Instead of the typical 60 days you have to dispute a credit card charge, you have 2 days to report fraudulent activity with a debit card. After that, it’s your responsibility.

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Tim Manni

Tim Manni is the Managing Editor of HSH.com and the author of their daily blog, which concentrates on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets.

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