TOKYO – Credit cards believed to have been forged on the basis of individual information illegally obtained in the United States have been used at electrical appliances discount stores and cash voucher shops in Japan, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Domestic credit card companies learned how the cards were used while they were checking whether any bogus cards had been illegally used after the security breach was revealed in the United States.

Though the information originally was stolen from a U.S. data-processing company, it is now feared that some forged cards are being used in Japan.

Credit card companies believe that individual information on credit cards was compromised from August to May.

According to Bankcard Service Japan Co., which is entrusted by 64 regional banks to deal with credit cards, forged Visa cards were used in 24 cases from February to May, – resulting in a loss of 1.98 million yen – about $18,170 – and in one case, 190,000 yen – or about $1,740 – was illegally used through a MasterCard in February.

In one of these cases, a Visa card was illegally used in Turkey. The rest of the cases occurred in Tokyo, Osaka and other places in Japan.

In some of these cases, forged cards were used to purchase DVD recorders at discount stores selling electrical appliances or tickets at cash voucher shops.

Bankcard Service said it was highly possible that the cards had been forged on the basis of information illegally obtained in the United States because no case had been reported in which any customer information was exposed during the same period.

Pocketcard Co., affiliated with Sanyo Shinpan Finance Co., said the company had been informed by MasterCard International Inc. that individual information might have been leaked in 500 cases from August to May. The company later found traces of illegal use of such information in 10 cases that caused losses of about 1 million yen, or about $9,180. In each of these cases, it was found that someone had bought something with forged cards at shops in Japan.

“We can’t yet decide whether there is any relation between the information leakage and card forgery, but we can’t deny the possibility that some of the information (stolen in the United States) was obtained by crime groups in Japan,” a Pocketcard official said.

Japan-based UCS Co., a subsidiary of major supermarket chain Uny Co., confirmed five fraud cases in which forged MasterCards were used that caused total losses of 400,000 yen – about $3,670 – from January to March. As for Visa cards, the firm found four cases from December to March resulting in a total loss of 800,000 yen – about $7,340. In each case, a fabricated card was used to buy something at shops in Japan.

Each credit card company warned that it was highly possible the information stolen in the United States was being illegally used in Japan.

Data on 46,000 Japan-issued Visa cards may have been stolen, Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said Wednesday.

The ministry was informed by 12 domestic credit card firms that issued cards in partnership with U.S. credit card firm Visa International following a large-scale theft of credit card data in the United States.

The finding raised the number Japan-issued cards at risk, including those already reported by 26 MasterCard companies, to 67,000.

Visa International initially reported that data on 63,800 Japan-issued cards might have been stolen. U.S.-based MasterCard International said 80,000 Japan-issued MasterCards could be at risk, but because many of those accounts were expired or nonexistent, domestic companies advised the ministry how many of the cards were actually in use, sources said.

The ministry was also advised by JCB Co., which offers international credit card services under its own name, that data on 31 cards might have been stolen.

Ministry officials also have sought information from companies such as American Express International Inc. But the number of cards at risk is unlikely to jump much from the current 67,000, the officials said. The ministry has not revealed how many cards have been used illegally used or the amount stolen.


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