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CUs at Forefront in Advice to Consumers about Target Breach
MADISON, Wis. (12/23/13)--Credit unions, while fielding questions from members, are at the forefront in providing reassurance, advice and information for consumers worried that their debit and credit cards were among the 40 million cards compromised by the huge Target stores data breach announced last week.
 
A number of media approached financial institutions for input on the incident and how they were helping members whose cards were compromised. Many reported comments, advice and actions taken by credit unions on behalf of members potentially affected by the breach. The fact that credit unions are often the only financial institutions interviewed for the stories that impact all financial institutions indicates credit unions have achieved increased visibility.
 
The breach's timing was bad, said Space Coast CU, based in Melbourne, Fla.  "The breach could not have come at a worse time, with the heightened holiday purchasing. SCCU will strive to minimize the inconvenience to impacted members, but the first priority is to protect the membership from fraud," the $3.13 billion asset credit union said in a statement Thursday (FloridaToday.com Dec. 19).
 
In Dubuque, Iowa, $1.1 billion asset Dupaco Community CU urged consumers to check all their statements.  "It doesn't matter if they use the card once or 20 times," said Dupaco Senior Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Dave Klavitter on KCRG.com (Dec. 20).  "Always check your financial statements. Check your online banking. Set up e-notifiers if you notice anything that is goofy."  The article also urged consumers to check the account every day because thieves will take days, weeks or months to commit fraud on all the information stolen.
 
Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Redwood CU assured consumers they would not be charged for any unauthorized transactions. Members should not panic at this point, said Robin McKenzie, spokesperson for the $2.2 billion asset Redwood. "It is important to stay calm and realize they are not responsible for any fraudulent activity. They are covered," McKenzie told The Press Democrat (Dec. 19). About 300 of Redwood's 230,000 members called and expressed concern but none reported losses. Redwood advised members whose cards were compromised to apply for new cards.
 
First Alliance CU, a $138 million asset credit union in Rochester, Minn., said Thursday it was expecting more than 1,000 members to be affected by the Target data breach.  At first, it was notified that 130 members' cards were compromised, but by 10 a.m. Thursday the count was up to 750 cardholders. As each hour passed, more were expected, CEO Kelly McDonough said (Kaaltv.com Dec. 19). McDonough told the station the credit union would call each member on the compromised list and explain what the credit union would do.  Members don't have to worry or be uncertain about what's going to happen with their card, McDonough said.

In a later story in  the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, McDonough said it had identified 859 members who had shopped at Target and has been contacting them to order new cards. The new cards cost the credit union about $5 each and typically take five to seven days to arrive but because of the holidays could take up to 14 days.
 
First Alliance is "taking into account that it is Christmas" and is advising members not to panic. "We'll be in touch with you. In the meantime, we know that your credit card's on that list so we will be watching out for you." McDonough advised consumers to make sure their financial institutions have their contact information.
 
Several New Mexico credit unions reported to the Albuquerque Journal Business (Dec. 20) that they have begun canceling and issuing new debit and credit cards or were planning to do so. New Mexico Educators FCU, with $1.4 billion assets in Albuquerque, said it is issuing new cards and deactivating the old ones by Jan. 4.
 
East Idaho CU in Idaho Falls, Idaho, with assets of $269 million, canceled hundreds of debit cards after seeing bogus charges after the Target breach, CEO Brad Bauges told KIFI (KTVB.com Dec. 20). Membership at the credit union totals 39,000. The credit union discovered so much fraud that it will issue new cards to all cardholders who shopped at Target during the breach window, Bauges said.
 
The $68 million asset Wichita Falls (Texas) Teachers CU identified 400 members affected by the breach. More than a dozen employees have been contacting the cardholders, said Texomas.com (Dec. 20). Jane Fitzgerald, CEO, told the publication that hackers might not use the information for six months, but credit union is disabling the cards anyway to keep thieves from using the information.
 
Knoxville (Tenn.) TVA CU, which has $1.19 billion in assets, said that members who shopped at Target should call the credit union so it can cancel the card and replace it for free. It did not want to take any risks that members would experience fraud (WBIR.com Dec. 20). Also $211 million asset UT FCU, based in Knoxville, said it is closely monitoring  the situation and will send affected cardholders a letter.
 
Bethpage (N.Y.) FCU and Teachers FCU, Smithtown, N.Y.,  sent out alerts in the wake of the breach, saying they would contact members impacted, reported DeerPark-NorthBabylonPatch.com (Dec. 20).  Bethpage, with $5.5 billion in assets, noted in a local paper that if it suspected an account had been affected, it would contact those members and issue a new card. It is telling members that in the meantime, they can use their existing cards. The $4.9 billion asset Teachers FCU said it was analyzing cardholder transactions and would contact members if necessary.
 
See related News Now story, CUs Impacted in Target Breach Get Risk Mitigation Tips.
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