Commercial banks across T&T have been put on alert after a security breach which has put large numbers of Visa and MasterCard debit and credit cards across the Caribbean at risk.The breach came to light after a nationwide credit-card recall across banks in the Bahamas in late February.
Financial institutions there were on high alert as they scrambled to protect the funds of thousands of consumers whose credit cards were compromised by a major data breach. As a result, banks in the Bahamas had to reissue thousands of cards.
The Caribbean Association of Banks (CAB) issued a security alert yesterday, saying banks and other financial institutions had been affected by the breach at a data centre in Barbados, where sensitive information on the accounts of thousands of cardholders was stolen.
CAB advised cardholders that "out of an abundance of caution" banks and credit unions might be contacting customers to have their cards replaced. It stressed that those measures were precautionary as no fraud had yet been detected.
"Our member banks and other financial institutions throughout the region take client confidentiality and security very seriously and provide assurance that customer interest remains soundly protected," CAB said in a statement.
The association added those measures were precautionary and no fraud had been attributed to this case. The CAB has members in 17 Caribbean countries, including T&T.Regional media reports said the unnamed international card-processing facility in Barbados had been hacked last month.
The Antigua Observer reported last week that four local financial institutions had been affected by the security breach, though no cases of fraud had been reported. They were Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank, Antigua & Barbuda Investment Bank, HSBC and Caribbean Union Bank.
An Observer story quoted Jessel Gadsby, general manager of the St Kitts-based Caribbean Credit Card Corporation, as saying: "I believe it is nearly all of the banks in the Caribbean, certainly all of the banks in the Eastern Caribbean have been impacted by it."
In the Bahamas, Anwer Sunderji, CEO of Fidelity Bank, was reported as saying: "All Bahamian banks had their card data compromised. This theft took place elsewhere and we were notified by Visa on Friday."
Paul McWeeney, the managing director at Bank of the Bahamas, said credit-card companies and the Central Bank had called financial institutions to warn them of the breach.His bank was replacing at least 2,000 credit cards and Commonwealth Bank Ltd said it might have to reissue up to 5,000.
A Dominican Web site published a statement issued by the National Bank of Dominica (NBD) to assure customers it was taking steps to prevent their accounts from being affected by the security breach.The statement said: "The breach affected multiple banks around the region, including NBD. The information provided from our card processor indicated a number of our cardholders were potentially compromised as a result of the breach. "In an effort to protect our customers from potential fraudulent attempts, we took immediate action to block the affected cards and reissue new cards."
The NBD said no customers had reported fraudulent activity in their accounts and the bank was not associated with the compromised card-processing facility but was taking precautions and contacting all customers who were affected.Finance Minister Larry Howai, Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambaran and the Bankers Association could not be reached for comment yesterday.