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BREAKING NEWS

Been denied lately?

By Staff | Jan 31, 2009

Computer hackers cause inconvenience for local card holders

If you’ve tried using your bank debit card lately and it was denied, there’s a good explanation.

A huge hacking attempt of a national payment systems company has hit closer to home.

Two weeks ago, customers of First Bank Blue Earth began receiving letters informing them they will be receiving a new debit card and PIN (Personal Identification Number).

“Not everyone is affected. If you use your debit card for retail purchases you’re probably on the list to get a letter,” says Dan Mensing, vice president of First Bank.

Heartland Payment Systems says the company discovered a security breach within its processing system in 2008, which officials said they had contained.

Card information used by Visa and Mastercard holders may have been exposed to the hackers.

It’s not sure how many credit and debit card accounts may have been compromised nationally, but some estimates put the total at more than 100 million.

Mensing says identity theft is not involved and First Bank’s computer systems or equipment were not affected.

“No personal information like Social Security card numbers, date of birth, telephone numbers or addresses were involved in the breach,” says Mensing.

Marsha Engler, president of Wells Fargo in Blue Earth, says because they use their own system, its customers are not impacted.

“When someone uses a debit card the money comes right out of their account. There’s no third party involved,” she says.

Some banking with Wells Federal have been notified of the problem.

Diane Mensing of the Blue Earth branch says letters were mailed to cardholders as soon as the company received information regarding possible fraudulent card activity.

“We contact the customer and wait for them to get back to us before we do anything. We don’t close their account right away or issue a new card,” Mensing says.

Teri Johnson of the Wells Federal office in Wells says in the company’s 10 branches more than 160 letters were sent to cardholders.

“We recommend they close their account. But, the ultimate decision is up to them,” she says.

Dan Mensing would not say how many letters his bank mailed.

According to the letter, customers are asked to:

“Carefully examine your checking account statements to verify and confirm the charges listed. If anything looks suspicious, promptly report the incident to First Bank Blue Earth, (507) 526-3241.”