Western Union is owned by First Data Corporation of Atlanta. For years, the company has transferred money around the world from offices. Those offices were not affected by the security breach.
Hackers apparently got into the Web site while maintenance was being performed. Western Union says between 15,000 to 20,000 credit and debit card numbers were taken from customer accounts. The site went up in June with the launch scheduled for later in September.
Western Union is asking people to contact their banks if they feel there could be a problem.
"What we're asking them to do is call their financial institutions and have their credit card canceled and have them issue you a new one," says Western Union spokesman Pater Ziverts.
The company's other Web site,MoneyZap.com, was not affected by the hacking and remains in operation. Information technology professionals say security remains a primary issue as Internet commerce grows.
"I certainly see more awareness of security issues and more concern being built into the design of new services," says Jeanne Smythe, UNC Director of Computing Policy.
Western Union says human error allowed its Web site to be hacked. Credit card holders are generally responsible for only $50 of fraudulent charges. However, debit card holders could have their entire account cleaned out.
There have been no reports of charges being made with the stolen card numbers.
Visa and MasterCard are working closely with Western Union monitoring stolen account numbers. Smythe says she uses a seperate credit card for online purchases, which is not a bad idea. It could make online purchases easier to track.
If you have questions about the Western Union situation, you can call1-800-228-6530.