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380,000 British Airways travelers' credit card details were hacked, airline says

380,000 British Airways travelers' credit card details were hacked, airline says
British Airways announced a "very sophisticated malicious criminal attack" on its website that compromised customers' credit card information. (Frank Augstein / Associated Press)

Hackers obtained the credit card details of some 380,000 British Airways travelers during a two-week data breach this summer that leaves the customers vulnerable to financial fraud, the airline says.

British Airways’ chief executive, Alex Cruz, said Friday that enough data was stolen to allow criminals to use credit card information for illicit purposes, and that police are investigating.

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"We know that the information that has been stolen is name, address, email address, credit card information; that would be credit card number, expiration date and the three-letter code on the back of the credit card," he told the BBC.

He added that no passport data had been obtained in what he called a "very sophisticated, malicious criminal attack."

British Airways advised people to contact their bank or credit card company if they used the airline's website or mobile app to make or change a booking between 10:58 p.m. London time on Aug. 21 and 9:45 p.m. London time on Sept. 5.

The recommendation does not apply to customers who bought tickets or changed reservations outside those times.

The airline promised to reimburse any financial losses suffered by customers directly because of the theft of their data.

Consumer advice website MoneySavingExpert says affected customers should first seek advice from their bank, then monitor bank and credit card statements closely for signs of possible fraudulent activity.

It also warns of possible "phishing scams" in which hackers try to trick affected consumers into revealing personal information like PIN codes or banking passwords.

Some angry travelers complained to Britain's Press Assn. that they had already noted bogus activity on the credit cards they had used to make British Airways bookings.

The hack once again puts the spotlight on the strength of the information technology systems at major companies as they expand their digital services.

British Airways experienced another IT-related crisis in May last year when roughly 75,000 passengers were stranded after the airline canceled more than 700 flights over three days because of computer system problems.

In the U.S., Delta Airlines said in April that payment-card information for several hundred thousand customers could have been exposed by a malware breach months earlier. The same breach also hit Sears Holdings Corp., which operates Kmart stores.

British Airways revealed the new hack Thursday evening and began notifying customers.

Britain's National Crime Agency says it is investigating.

Shares in BA's parent company, IAG, were down 3% on Friday.

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