WASHINGTON – Credit unions dropped millions, if not tens of millions of dollars in 2005 on the cost of closing and reissuing credit and debit cards for members whose card data was compromised in a series of enormous breaches of card security. The names of the cases, which came in rapid succession in the first and second quarter of the year, grew almost dizzying. BJ's Wholeale Club started it all with the revelation that in March 2004 that it had lost card data that compromised the card security of thousands of customers, a breach which credit unions have joined with CUNA Mutual Group to litigate. But the BJ's case was only the tip of a cascade of cases that flowed into 2005. Polo Ralph Lauren admitted that its point of sale software retained the credit card information of hundreds of thousands of its customers between June 2002 and December 2004. The fashion house was quickly joined by HSBC, Fifth Third, DSW, Lexus-Nexus..a roll call of major U.S. retailers and financial institutions who have had card data stolen has grown. Card security experts say that the problem may only grow, at least in the short term. And the king of them all, CardSystems Solutions a card processing firm headquartered in Atlanta, confirmed MasterCard's June 17 statement that data from some 40 million cards, 13.9 million MasterCard's and the balance spread over other brands, had been compromised. The impact of the series of breaches has yet to be fully totaled, even as 2005 comes to an end. They have forced reforms at different levels of the credit and debit card industry and have calls for accountability and legislation in different states and before the federal government. Currently, three different legislative approaches to the problem have been introduced, an indication that the topic will likely surface again in 2006.

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