Thousands of restaurant customers are nervously watching their credit card accounts after a major data breach that may have targeted hundreds of popular U.S. restaurants.
All have dined in recent months at restaurants owned by Houston-based Landry's Inc., which oversees 37 locations under different names in Southern California.
Possibly impacted establishments include popular chains like Claim Jumper, Morton's Steakhouse, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Chart House, Mastro's, The Rusty Pelican, and McCormick & Schmick.
In a statement sent to the I-Team, Landry’s says it “recently received reports of unauthorized charges on certain payment cards after the cards were used legitimately at some of its restaurants."
Landry's said its initial investigation suggests the breach "may involve the data contained in the magnetic strip on the back of payment cards" which contains private information about the card holders' accounts.
Cyber security expert Kevin Ranieri of SurePassID told the I-Team the criminal, or criminals, responsible could really cash in.
"It's new-age goldmining," he said. "It's a treasure trove of data. when they hit the jackpot, they can use them over and over again. That's why it's so attractive."
The I-Team reached out to Landry's to find out if the restaurants have switched over to the new credit card “chip,” or EMV, system, which is supposed to prevent this kind of fraud.
A spokeswoman declined to answer specifically, but in a statement the company said before this even happened Landry's had begun implementing new security so that customer "card data is encrypted when it is swiped and it remains encrypted throughout our system.
"Ninety two percent of our locations have been encrypted," the statement read.
Landry's hasn't identified the specific restaurants involved with the breach or exactly when the hack took place, but the company is urging customers of all its establishments to monitor their credit card accounts and report any suspicious activity to their bank right away.
All restaurants owned by Landry's Inc;
Here are tips on protecting yourself from credit card fraud.