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Business leaders launch effort launched to combat data fraud, losses

WASHINGTON (AP) _ After a string of high-profile data thefts and losses, business leaders on Wednesday announced an education campaign to better protect sensitive client information from hackers and other thieves.

``The fraudsters are ever more sophisticated than they have been in the past. We're dealing with people who have just as many resources and technology at their disposal as legitimate businesses do,'' said Steve Ruwe, executive vice president of operations and risk management at Visa USA.

Visa and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce plan a nine-city tour with seminars for businesses to discuss current requirements for handling customer data, such as credit card numbers, names and addresses.

Last month, Visa was involved in one of the biggest breaches of consumer data security when the computer system at CardSystems Solutions Inc., which processes payments for the major credit cards, was hacked. The breach exposed 40 million credit card accounts to possible fraud.

Visa and American Express Co. said Tuesday that they're cutting ties with CardSystems.

In recent months, there have been disclosures of other losses or breaches at CitiFinancial, Time Warner Inc., DSW Shoe Warehouse and Wachovia Corp.

Ruwe said companies are increasingly holding onto sensitive information, such as the data embedded in a credit card's magnetic stripe. They should not be storing that data, he said.

Experts say there will never be perfect security but businesses need to do more.

``The criminals are constantly coming back at it. You have to constantly revisit your data security,'' said Rick Fischer, who has spent more than 30 years advising banks and other financial institutions on data security and privacy issues.

The education seminars begin next month and will be held in Springfield, Mo.; Charlotte, N.C.; Vancouver, Wash.; Sacramento, Calif.; Los Angeles; Columbus, Ohio; Arlington, Texas; Albany, N.Y.; and Wilmington, Del.
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