MasterCard, Visa warn of possible security breach

WILMINGTON, Del., Fri Mar 30, 2012 – MasterCard Inc. and Visa Inc. have notified U.S. banks of a potential security breach, the latest in a string of incidents that have put the personal information of millions of credit card holders at risk.

The companies, which are the two largest global credit card processors, said the issue stemmed from a third-party vendor and not their own internal systems.

Following news of the breach, the shares of Atlanta-based Global Payments Inc were halted after dropping more than 9.1 percent. A representative did not immediately return a request for comment.

Several other processing companies, including Heartland Payment Systems Inc, VeriFone Systems Inc and First Data denied responsibility for the potential breach. Card Systems Inc and WorldPay did not immediately respond to inquiries about the matter.

MasterCard said it notified law enforcement officials and has hired an independent data-security organization to review the possible breach.

A U.S. Secret Service spokesman said the agency was investigating, but declined to give any specifics about the breach.

“MasterCard is concerned whenever there is any possibility that cardholders could be inconvenienced and we continue to both monitor this event and take steps to safeguard account information,” the company said in a statement. “If cardholders have any concerns about their individual accounts, they should contact their issuing financial institution.”

Visa emphasized that customers are not responsible for fraudulent purchases.