Territory Banks Warn Customers of Increase in Credit Card Fraud

U.S.V.I. — For at least one St. John customer caught up in the latest wave of bankcard fraud to hit the U.S. Virgin Islands, the trail started at a St. Thomas gas station when he used his card for the only time off St. John before unauthorized charges began showing up from merchants around the southeastern U.S.

It continued with his forced return trip by ferry to the Scotiabank branch in Red Hook, St. Thomas, on Friday, November 21, where bank officials assured him he would be reimbursed for the unapproved charges to his card.

“It’s up to almost $2,000 now,” he said of the spate of stateside charges to his card at such retailers as a McDonalds and Kmart in Georgia.

Officials of First Bank and Scotiabank confirmed at week’s end that a massive security breach had forced the two USVI banks to stop or limit the use of customer cards. Banco Popular officials reported no increase in card fraud but said that they were warning customers to monitor their accounts for suspicious activity.

As of Thursday, 1,230 customer accounts had been compromised in the last week, a Scotiabank spokesperson told the V.I. Daily News.

FirstBank officials said they found fraudulent activity in its bank card system a week before Scotiabank reported similar activity.

Questionable Transactions Noted
FirstBank officials told the media they noticed questionable transactions two weeks ago and that the initial security breach occurred within the systems of two unidentified U.S. retailers. FirstBank allowed customers to continue to use their cards by using their PIN numbers until they received new cards that have been mailed.

“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,” the bank said in a public statement. “In an effort to help minimize the adverse impact on clients, FirstBank has taken proactive measures to protect our clients’ financial services by restricting the use of the FirstBank Visa Debit card to ATM transactions (through the ATH network) using the client’s personal identification number (PIN) and at retail locations where PIN-based sales are accepted.”

To obtain a temporary replacement card, FirstBank clients were advised to visit any of its branch locations. Clients may also contact the FirstLine Solutions Center toll free at 1.866.695.2511 (USVI) and 1.284.495.8899 (BVI).

FirstBank officials said the bank will continue to carefully monitor all account transactions and also encourages its clients to monitor their accounts through Online Banking and notify the bank immediately if they notice any fraudulent activity.

Banco Popular reported no increase in fraudulent activities, but encouraged customers to monitor their accounts. The bank continued to send new cards to customers who have been notified of suspicious activities in their accounts, officials said.