Schnucks breach compromises students’ cards


As freshman acting major Raina Houston tried to buy groceries at the Schnucks grocery store in Webster Groves, her card read “invalid.”

“All I could do is let my friend pay for me in cash,” Houston said.

According to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a third party may have compromised about 2.4 million credit and debit cards through Schnucks stores.

The Schnucks on Big Bend in Webster Groves was one of 79 stores affected by security breach dating back to December 2012. An estimated 2.4 million debit/credit card numbers were stolen from the grocery chain over the course of three months. PHOTO BY DAN DUNCAN

Houston remained without funds for two weeks, because of the recent credit and debit card compromises at Schnucks. She did not use a Higher One account (which are distributed to access money from financial aid), but used her Chase account that is jointed with her mother, the primary holder. Higher One is a bankcard that is issued to all students while attending the university to access money, refunds, etc.

In the meantime, Houston borrowed money from friends until her mother could send a money order. Unfortunately, the re-issued card was sent to her mother who mailed it to Houston from New Orleans.

Webster University students tend to shop at the Webster Groves location located at 8650 Big Bend Blvd. because of its close location to campus. Webster is less than one mile from the Schnucks location. Webster students use its Higher One accounts and other institutions to shop. The Wall Street Journal previously reported 2.1 million college students utilize Higher One.

In a Schnucks press release, the company said, “We’ve worked hard to provide a secure transaction environment for our customers and, today I make a personal pledge to you that we will be relentless in maintaining the security of our payment processing system. We expect that the actions we have taken and will take in the future will send a clear signal that our customers may continue to trust us,”

The issue has resulted in re-issued debit and credit cards, because of suspicious activities found on compromised accounts. In an e-mail response regarding the Schnucks compromise, Higher One said, “the involved merchant is not associated in any way with Higher One.”

Approximately 3,000 Higher One checking accounts were affected in St. Louis. According to Higher One, this represents less than one percent of their customer base. The company also said it had contacted its account holders who made purchases with “the involved merchant” during the impacted dates.

“When Higher One learned of the security breach, we immediately alerted account holders through a notification informing them that their card would be canceled and they would be re-issued a free replacement card to their primary address on Monday, April 15, 2013,” a spokesperson with Higher One said in an email.

Higher One did not cancel and re-issue all cards in the St. Louis area. However, account holders that used their cards at the unidentified merchant during the impacted dates received new cards.

Schnucks did not respond to an interview request before press time.

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