When Heartland Payment Systems was contacted by Visa and MasterCard about reports of fraud tied to credit cards it had processed, an investigation showed that transactions at many of its small- to-medium-sized restaurants had been targets of a system-wide data breach. The instance was part of a growing archive of headlines about sensitive consumer data falling into the wrong hands. To help protect restaurant owners, operators and their customers from futher exposure, Boston-based Merchant Warehouse has developed what it calls MerchantWARE technology. The solution is part of the company's booth at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show at Chicago's McCormick Place. Henry Helgeson, Merchant Warehouse co-CEO and president, said the number of data breaches has increased significantly over the past several years. While the increase has saturated the black market with 80 million to 100 million credit card numbers, data thieves seem bent on adding to the glut. His company's solution, MerchantWARE, encrypts credit card data at the point-of-swipe and can be integrated into an operators' POS system to conceal important transaction data. Helgeson said the encrypted reader also would protect the data by making the information virtually useless even if an operator's POS system was hacked. Merchant Warehouse also is working with restaurant operators to help them understand the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a set of requirements designed to further secure payment account data. The PCI Security Standards Council has released a self-assessment questionnaire for restaurant operators who wonder whether they are PCI compliant. Merchant Warehouse is exhibiting in booth No. 5270 during the NRA Show, May 16-19.