Visa’s $23 Quadrillion Oops

Written by Evan Schuman
July 16th, 2009

On Monday (July 13), about 13,000 Visa prepaid card consumers got a mathematically eye-opening extra charge, in the form of $23 quadrillion (that’s twenty-three-thousand trillion dollars, for those who didn’t pay attention in math class) additional charges.

A statement from Visa said that a “temporary programming error at Visa Debit Processing Services caused some transactions to be inaccurately posted” and that the glitch “has been corrected and erroneous postings have been removed. Importantly, this incident had no financial impact on Visa prepaid cardholders. Visa regrets any inconvenience to our customers and has taken immediate steps to ensure this error doesn’t occur again.”

The statement said the glitch “impacted fewer than 13,000” transactions and a Visa official—Elvira Swanson, Visa’s director of global corporate relations—said that those transactions impacted “about 13,000 consumers.”

“It simply posted the wrong amount into online statements and it was corrected within hours,” Swanson said, adding that the specific amount varied slightly from consumer to consumer, but that they were all “equally large amounts” and were “in some cases identical amounts.”

As to what caused the glitch, that’s a little trickier. Swanson initially said that the glitch “was part of an upgrade to the Visa debit processing platform” and it involved moving to a new file format, but she then E-mailed a short message saying—without elaboration or explanation—”the issue was not due to a new file format.” It’s unclear whether the original comment was indeed incorrect or merely unauthorized.


Comments are closed.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.