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Banco Popular Increases Safeguards

Customers of Banco Popular in the Virgin Islands can enjoy a greater degree confidence that their funds and financial information will be protected, the bank’s senior management said Monday.

In light of an external security breach in November that enabled an outside source to access card numbers of some customers from FirstBank and Scotia Bank, plus robberies this year at several banks in the territory, officials at Banco Popular reviewed and strengthened their security procedures, they said at a a news conference Monday.

Speaking at their corporate headquarters in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the Banco Popular senior management team in charge of the Virgin Islands region outlined their recent efforts to safeguard the information and assets of their customers.

Banco Popular has added new security doors to its branches in the territory, launched new counter-fraud measures and integrated systems that alert the customer in the event of unusual spending or charges, the officials said.

At the St. Croix branch offices, Banco Popular replaced the simple swinging glass doors with new security doors that are able to prevent individuals from entering the bank with firearms. The latest installation of the new doors is at the Orange Grove location in Christiansted, which was robbed in recent months.

While physical locations have gotten their additional security upgrades, the major concern in the Virgin Island is that of banking cards and the safety using them, the bank officials said.

Residents have been checking their accounts for any fraudulent charges since the recent rash of security breaches. In November FirstBank and ScotiaBank noticed external security incidents at local retailers, and some of their customers incurred fraudulent charges to their accounts. The banks have been monitoring account activities closely, and FirstBank limited debit card use to ATMs and retailers that require PINs.

Banco Popular is taking the security measures a step further, According to the officials, customers will receive a new card with a microchip designed to prevent fraud.

“As soon as January 15th, we will start to change all the credit cards of the customers. Everyone in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico will start to see the EMB credit card," said Néstor O. Rivera, executive vice president of Retail Banking. "It will take some time because each client will have to validate the card, it would take us a couple of months to make the change.”

“The EMB microchips has encrypted data … it is an algorithm that people can’t copy," Rivera explained. "The normal mode is for someone who can pick up your credit card to copy the magnetic data strip, now you can’t do it with an EMB card.”

The new EMB credit card will add another layer of customer protection for those using cards issued by Banco Popular, the officials said. The bank has also bolstered its counter-fraud measures. Banco Popular has a 24-hour monitoring center for fraud, as well as alert systems in which the customer can set the system to notify them of any unusual spending via text or email.

“Falcon will learn your behavior … if you go beyond your spending patterns, Falcon will alert you to these transactions” said Rivera.

For Banco Popular customers, transactions will be posted "up-to-the-minute," aiding in tracking fraudulent charges.

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