Large scale security breach at Virgin Islands, FirstBank, Banco Popular and Scotia Bank affected
FirstBank VI is reeling under a massive security breach. A majority of its Visa debit card holders are being restricted from accessing or using their accounts while some unfortunate others have reported thousands of dollars being stolen from their accounts. Banco Popular and Scotia Bank on St. Croix are also reporting security breaches at their institutions. FirstBank today confirmed that the problem, which occurred through a security breach deriving from outside merchants, happened on Wednesday, Nov. 12.
Alana Alexander, marketing communications manager for FirstBank VI, based in Charlotte Amalie, told on Thursday that the breach affects FirstBank locations in the USVI and BVI. Alexander issued a press release to media outlets stating that, “as a result of recent security incidents in retail locations, FirstBank’s internal security processes detected an external security breach regarding some Visa Debit card numbers.” When asked how many debit card customers were affected, Alexander said, “The total number of impacted cards has been identified by the business unit and we are ensuring our clients’ needs are being attended to. However, this is confidential information and we are not at liberty to disclose this information.”
He also told that as soon as the bank was made aware of the breach, they immediately started a process of contacting every customer individually to inform them of the incident. They tried calling their customers, which proved futile owning to old phone numbers on record. As a result, they started sending out letters in emails to the clients. The measures taken, the bank said, included restricting the use of affected customers’ Visa Debit cards to only ATM transactions (through the ATH network) using the client’s personal identification number (PIN) and at retail locations where PIN-based sales are accepted. “This action was taken to ensure that the clients’ accounts were not compromised further,” Alexander explained.
Sunny Isle, customer of a branch in St. Croix, was the individual who came forward claiming that hackers had managed to break into his account and withdraw amount from it amounting in the thousands. When the bank was informed of the incident, the managers initially tried to brush it off claiming that a bank account of their bank could not be hacked into. Instead they claimed that the customer’s email must have been compromised and the hacker gained his credentials from it.
At the same bank, another customer said he witnessed people shopping in local grocery stores whose cards had declined. One FirstBank customer also came forward and said his card had declined while purchasing lunch at a local restaurant earlier in the week. When asked if local police were alerted to the matter, Alexander said the FirstBank security breach is not one of local police jurisdiction. “I can disclose that the breach occurred in two U.S. retailers, therefore FirstBank does not need to involve local police authorities,” she said.
An employee at Banco Popular in Sunny Isle confirmed news that the bank’s security had been breached and also confirmed reports of the emails being sent to the customers. If a customer has not received a mail, he or she are most likely not affected. However, if you do find some suspicious activity on your account, you are advised to contact your branch without delay.
St. Croix’s Scotia Bank was also affected. Reporters could not immediately get a statement because the bank was over flooded with customers trying to get the same information but an official from the bank did revert back to reporters later.
Christine Lee, Scotia Bank marketing director said the bank is aware that certain of its customers’ Visa Debit card accounts had been compromised and its fraud-detection system immediately moved to temporarily lock those accounts. She said affected customers were contacted right away, adding that customer security is the bank’s top priority. Lee also said she is not aware of any personal accounts being compromised and that only certain Visa Debit card customers were affected. She also confirmed that the security breach happened as the result of outside retailers, and hand nothing to do with an internal banking breach. Lee encourages affected customers to visit the local Scotia Bank branch for further information.
The Bank of St. Croix was not affected.
- FirstBank advises its customers to visit any of its branch locations to obtain a temporary replacement card.
- Customers may also contact the FirstLine Solutions Center toll free at 1.866.695.2511 (USVI) and 1.284.495.8899 (BVI).
- In addition, the bank said it will continue to monitor all account transactions and encourages its customers to do the same through Online Banking and notify the bank immediately if any fraudulent activity is detected.
Local banking customers who wish to obtain a free credit report to monitor activity, may contact any of the three credit reporting agencies below: