For most of us, the Target data breach proved little more than an inconvenience. Maybe you changed your PIN code or got your debit or credit card reissued.
But for Tim Nolan of Hillsboro, the breach ruined what was supposed to a dream backpacking trip in Central America. He found himself cut off from his own bank account, all because he picked up some toothpaste at the Sunset Esplanade Target in Hillsboro the day before he left.
Nolan took advantage of a three-week hiatus from his job at a semiconductor company to plan a 25-day journey through Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
He said everything was great until he got to Copan, Honduras.
"I tried to get money out of the ATM and it declined me," he said.
He didn't think too much of it at first, figuring it was a problem with the ATM. He checked his email the next day and found a message from Chase Bank informing him about the Target data breach, his debit card was at risk and people traveling internationally wouldn't be able to access cash from ATMs.
Nolan panicked but then remembered he'd brought along a spare Chase debit card in case he got mugged during his trip. He called the number on the card to activate it, but instead of getting the usual automated response, he reached an operator who asked him to answer security questions: his mother's birth date, where his uncle lives, and where he has owned property.
For the last question, Nolan says he answered "none of the above" because he doesn't own property anywhere. The operator told him that was incorrect, and Chase could not activate the spare debit card.
After several more attempts, Nolan gave up. He says Chase cleared his original debit card for use but could not guarantee it would continue to work at his future stops. He considered his options and weighed the risk of continuing to travel in a region that is cash-based.
"I'm out of the country, I'm in Honduras, I can't afford to be stuck!" he said. "I can't afford to be stranded somewhere, and I have to come home because if you run out of money, nobody cares – if you don't have the money, you're not getting on the bus.”
Nolan cut his trip short by 11 days. A disappointing end to a life experience he considered priceless.
Checking the date on his watch, he says, "I'd be in Grenada right now drinking a mai tai, mojitos. They have delicious mojitos in Antigua."
KATU reached out to JP Morgan Chase on behalf of Nolan but has not heard back.