The latest in a string of high-profile data thefts seems to have originated with retailer Polo Ralph Lauren Inc., the Associated Press reported.
Data was reportedly stolen from the popular clothing retailer, forcing banks and credit card companies to inform 180,000 customers that their credit-card information may have been exposed.
HSBC North America, a division of London-based HSBC Holdings PLC, has begun notifying holders of the HSBC-issued, General Motors-branded MasterCard that criminals may have obtained access to their credit card information and that the cards should be replaced, the AP reported.
HSBC spokesman Stephen E. Cohen told the AP Thursday that "we began doing it last week, and we are continuing," confirming that about 180,000 GM-branded cardholders are affected.
The retailer was not named by Cohen or MasterCard International, but the breach was reported in Thursday's editions of The Wall Street Journal, which quoted "people with knowledge of the matter" as saying the data was stolen at Polo Ralph Lauren.
A spokeswoman at Polo Ralph Lauren, which is headquartered in New York, said “we have no comment at the moment” on the report and asked that her name not be used, the AP reported.
While it was not certain how many other credit cards might have been involved in the breach, Visa USA Inc. and MasterCard-the nation's largest credit card associations-were both reported to be dealing with Polo Ralph Lauren on the matter, the AP reported.
"Investigations into this incident by MasterCard, law enforcement and other parties are ongoing," MasterCard said in a statement.
Earlier this week, LexisNexis Group said a security breach at its huge public and private database could have affected as many as 310,000 people.