On Your Side Alert: Why banking alert information is limited

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Those fraud alerts you get from your bank can be helpful, but what happens when you try to find out more information? Some viewers were not happy after a major bank wouldn't release information about a possible data breach.

If you have a bank account, maybe you've received a merchant alert. Essentially, the bank is notifying you that there could be some type of security breach. Viewers called us after receiving alerts from Bank of America. They wanted to know why, if their information was in jeopardy, the bank wouldn't release the name of the merchant. They say it would give them option to choose if they wanted to continue shopping at the place in question.

A spokesperson for Bank of America said in a statement:

Security for our customers is a top priority, and our objective is to protect our customers and the bank.  If, through our fraud monitoring and information we receive from the payment networks, we believe a card may have been compromised at a third-party location, we will notify a customer and block and reissue the card.  We take these proactive steps to protect our customers and minimize any occurrence of fraud. It doesn't necessarily mean that fraud has actually occurred on the account.  If fraud does occur on a customer's card, Bank of America customers are protected with our free $0 Liability Guarantee. Fraud alerts we receive from the payment networks do not identify or disclose the merchant and we would not have that information.

Bruce Whitehurst with the Virginia Bankers Association says the reason the banks don't have the information, is because it's protected by the credit card company, and for good reason. "It's sort of like calling fire in a crowded theater. You don't want to do ill to a merchant, if ultimately the pattern of irregularity resolves itself and was not an actual breach of data," he explains.

Keep in mind, just because you get an alert, it doesn't mean that something has actually happened. It's a just a precaution to keep you safe and sometimes as an extra measure, the bank will issue you a new card.

If fraud does happen, Bank of America customers are protected --and the bank will refund any money taken from your account. "There is this race to keep information technology more secure, one step ahead of what the cyber criminals can accomplish," Whitehurst says. Remember, whether you get an alert from the bank, or you suspect fraud, act quickly and contact your financial institution immediately for advice.



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