The Virgin Islands Consortium reports that FirstBank Visa debit card holders have been restricted from accessing or using their accounts, while some have reported seeing thousands of dollars stolen.
According to FirstBank, the breach took place on November 12, 2014.
Scotiabank and Banco Popular were similarly affected. Scotiabank marketing director Christine Lee told the Consortium that some of the bank’s debit card accounts had been compromised, after which those accounts were immediately locked and the affected customers were contacted.
Lee told the Virgin Islands Daily News that at least 1,230 Scotiabank customers’ accounts were compromised.
FirstBank marketing communications manager Alana Alexander said in a statement 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.”
Alexander wouldn’t say how many FirstBank customers were affected, however, stating only, “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.”
While the bank initially tried to call all affected customers to inform them of the breach, many customers had outdated phone numbers listed in their accounts. The bank then sent letters and emails instead, and restricted the use of affected debit cards to ATM transactions only.
“This action was taken to ensure that the clients’ accounts were not compromised further,” Alexander said.
While it’s not clear from the banks’ statements exactly how the breach occurred, Alexander said the breach itself took place in the U.S. “I can disclose that the breach occurred in two U.S. retailers, therefore FirstBank does not need to involve local police authorities,” she said.
Scotiabank’s Lee also told the Consortium that the breach happened through “outside retailers,” not at the bank itself.
The BVI Beacon reports that Dr. Orlando Smith, Premier of the British Virgin Islands, said at a press briefing that the protection of BVI citizens’ financial assets is of the highest priority. “Each and every person in the territory who has accounts at the bank here must be assured that their deposits are secure,” he said.