On April 11, the Mercyhurst Finance Department and Protective Services were alarmed at what seemed to be missing credit card transactions from March 9 to April 13. John Patterson, director of Protective Services, began to help the Finance Department figure out the missing transactions and reconcile the affair with local banks.
On April 16, all of the transactions that had stopped being reported hit students’ accounts at once, causing concerns about a potential hack or fraud.
“I keep daily registers so I could see where my spending was coming from,” Patterson said, “but if you’re not paying attention to how much you have in your account that can be a big problem.”
Mercyhurst sent out an email informing students about the issue after the situation was under control to avoid and panic or miscommunication, giving students base information and stating, “We apologize on behalf of the vendor for this error and any inconvenience or alarm this may have caused.”
All of the credit cards on campus have their information collected on a micro-server to print a statement for every day, reporting every transaction in one batch at the end of the day. The reports go to the Finance Department monthly to be reviewed.
“Since the Finance Department didn’t notice the missing transactions until compiling everything at the end of the month, it wasn’t caught right away,” Patterson said. “Things at the service level for me looked fine since no register stopped accepting transactions.”
After contacting a support company, the third-party company that the dining service uses as well as PNC Bank, Patterson began to going through each batch line by line to reconcile the missing transactions. PNC began pulling reports and running data for all charges from March 9 to April 13.
Students were concerned with the names of locations listed in transactions not matching the places that students performed those transactions. Since all of the credit card machines and their transactions are connected and compiled on one microserver, all of the backlogged transactions were clumped into one file.
“When the report ran, whatever the first location of transaction was for that day, all of the others listed were listed the same in that same day’s batch,” Patterson said.
So far there have been no cases of fraud or hacking in anyone’s account as every transaction that showed up in the batch on April 16 has been accounted for.
Several banks that have called the university asking for verification on the situation so students and families are not charged for any overdrive fees.
Patterson prepared a memo for all of the inquiring banks to authenticate the students’ claims. Once this was approved, the banks did not charge students with fees due to Mercyhurst’s server failure.
“Most banks have waived the fees when they saw and understood what happened. Although this may be the first time this has happened here, we are not the first location in Erie that it’s happened to,” Patterson said.
While the initial issue was resolved, students saw charges again on April 25. Patterson sent the transactions from March 8 to April 13 back to bank examiners to review the lines again, only rejecting one transaction as untraceable.
These charges came from the initial backlog but were all able to be traced accurately.
To resolve the system issue and make sure it never happens again, Protective Services Office replaces all of the credit card systems on campus over Easter break. Now, transactions with credit and debit cards will be recorded and processed on the same day.
“There are no more batches and the system doesn’t wait until the end of the day to run a file, it runs them and approves them every single time,” Patterson said. “It is now either approved or denied right at the register.”
This new system will help keep track of all charges as they happen, rather than having a large batch to sift through in the event of another issue.
So far, any student that has come to Patterson with card issues has been able to have their card traced and the charges found through a system search.
Patterson commends the students for their patience and understanding as the situation is sorted out. He recommends however that students do not only rely on apps to track spending, but keep a system of their receipts and be aware of how much they are spending.