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Visa deals with possible data breach

Credit card giant says financial institutions have been asked to protect affected customers via fraud monitoring or by reissuing cards.

Visa USA acknowledged Saturday that a U.S. merchant "may have experienced a data security breach" that compromised credit card account information.

The statement came in response to a News.com inquiry related to customers whose Visa debit cards had been put on fraud watch or deactivated due to a security breach. The customers include a San Francisco Bay Area man whose Wells Fargo-issued card was deactivated this week and a couple in Ohio whose card was placed on a watch.

Wells Fargo referred the issue to Visa.

In its statement issued Saturday, Visa said that after it learned "of the compromise, Visa quickly alerted the affected financial institutions to protect consumers through independent fraud monitoring and, if needed, reissuing cards."

A Visa representative said Saturday that no other information was available at this time, including the name of the merchant, the number of accounts involved or when the event occurred.

Data theft and identity theft came to the fore this year when a data security breach at payment processing company CardSystems Solutions exposed more than 40 million credit card accounts to fraud, primarily Visa and MasterCard cards.

Other major data leaks this year involved financial institutions Bank of America and Wachovia, data brokers ChoicePoint and LexisNexis, and the University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University.

Visa's statement on Saturday reiterated its stance on credit card security.

"As Visa has said before, it's important that every entity that handles payment card information adhere to the highest data protection standards, such as the Payment Card Industry...standard, to protect the security and privacy of their customers. Visa is aggressively partnering with entities across the nation to broaden adherence to these standards," the statement said.