Global Payments Says 1.5 Million Credit Card Numbers Stolen

Global Payments has said 1.5 million card numbers and other important information were stolen in a recent security breach that has led Visa to remove the company from a list of credit-card processors that comply with security standards.

Atlanta-based Global Payments reported the extent of the theft Sunday, saying "Track 2 card data may have been stolen." Track 2 data often includes the card number, the user's encrypted PIN and the three-digit security code in the back of the card. The banking industry considers the loss of such data serious, because it provides thieves with enough information to create counterfeit cards.

Global Payments said cardholders' names, addresses and social security numbers were not stolen in the breach, which reportedly occurred between Jan. 21 and Feb. 25. The company did not provide any details of the ongoing investigation, which includes industry regulators and law enforcement. "We are making rapid progress toward bringing this issue to a close," Paul R. Garcia, chairman and chief executive of Global Payments, said in a statement.

Reports of the breach hit the Web on Friday, forcing the company to have trading halted on the New York Stock Exchange after shares fell 9 percent. Visa, based in San Francisco, and MasterCard, based in Purchase, N.Y., have been alerting card-issuing banks that accounts could be at risk.

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Visa told The Wall Street Journal that it removed Global Payments from its list of companies that meet Visa's standards for security. MasterCard has not taken similar action.

A Global Payments spokeswoman acknowledged the removal by Visa, telling The Wall Street Journal, "We expect to be reinstated once we have been issued a new report of compliance." The company has said that is continuing to process credit-, debit- and gift-card transactions during the investigation. "We are open for business and continue to process transactions for all of the card brands," Garcia said.

Global Payments was the nation's seventh largest processor of credit card transactions involving merchants. Last year, the company handled $120.6 billion in Visa and MasterCard card volume.