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Originally published October 1 2008

Don't Pay For Groceries with Plastic! Credit Card Numbers Stolen From Grocery Store Chain

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) More than 4 million credit card numbers were exposed by a security breach at the grocery chain Hannaford Bros., the company announced earlier this year.

A total of 4.2 million different numbers were compromised from cards used at 1665 Hannaford stores in the Northeast, 106 Sweetbay stores in Florida and a number of independent grocery stores across the East. To date, approximately 1,800 related cases of fraud have been reported.

Hannaford has warned customers to monitor their cards for any unexpected charges, and to report suspected fraud to authorities. It noted that no personal information other than card numbers was exposed and that customers should beware of anyone claiming to represent Hannaford and asking for such information.

According to Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, debit card holders are at much greater risk from fraud than credit card holders. While credit card companies normally cover the costs of fraudulent charges, it can be much harder to convince banks to reimburse fraudulent withdrawals.

"Any time a debit card number is exposed, the affected individuals need to be contacted immediately, and their accounts should be closed down," Givens said.

Bruce Spitzer, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Bankers Association, criticized the secrecy with which grocery and credit card companies approached the breach. While the breach was detected on Feb. 27, Hannaford did not announce it until March 17. Furthermore, it still has not been revealed which stores were affected by the breach.

"Visa and MasterCard have stipulated in their contracts with retailers that they will not divulge who the source is when a data breach occurs," Spitzer said. "[But] without knowing who the retailer is ... It's hard for banks to conduct a good investigation on behalf of their consumers. And it's a problem for consumers as well, because if they know which retailer is responsible, they can rule themselves out for being at risk if they don't shop at that retailer."

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