Notifications reduced to green slips

More than one month after Heartland’s disclosure of a major breach, some customers are first finding out about it and that their card or account was affected. In some cases, however, all they are being given by way of explanation is a green slip enclosed with a replacement card. Steve Wartenberg of the Columbus Dispatch reports:

A green slip of paper accompanied each new Huntington card.

“We’ve been informed that your bank card may have been recently exposed by a third party to possible fraudulent activity,” it read in part. “Please destroy your old card and begin using your enclosed new card immediately.”

At least one customer was dissatisfied with the bank’s handling of the incident:

“They heard about it in January,” he said. “They should have alerted me immediately so I could monitor my account.”

Indeed, all over the internet, one can read comments from irate consumers, most of whom are blaming their banks or credit unions. For their part, the banks and credit unions feel like the victims of the Heartland breach because they bite the bullet on any fraudulent charges. Even though many of them have insurance to cover any losses, they may not file insurance claims out of concern that their insurance premiums will rise even more or because filing insurance claims just takes up more of their personnel’s time.

Like their customers, many of those dealing with the breach are fed up. “I have absolutely no sympathy for them (Heartland),” an executive vice-president of a credit union told me yesterday. “They knew about this last year and should have told us all immediately.” One bank, Lone Summit Bank, headquartered in Lake Lotawana, Missouri, has already filed a lawsuit against Heartland over the breach.

But consumers are getting increasingly irritated about the lack of transparency about breaches.  The fact that they may not suffer any financial harm due to zero liability is simply not enough for those who want to know more so that they can protect themselves or make informed choices about whether they want to continue using certain merchants.

In any event, little green slips do not strike me as an adequate notification or explanation. I would encourage banks and credit unions to spend the the time to develop a letter that really educates your members or customers so that they really understand where the responsibility lies for the inconvenience that they are likely to suffer.

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