Clubcard fraudsters in court: a reminder to check your points
THREE men that spent £17,331 using stolen Clubcard vouchers were ordered to pay compensation and sentenced to community service in Birmingham Magistrates' Court yesterday.
The prosecution is a reminder that Tesco Clubcard customers must keep a close eye on their rewards points.
As well as the Birmingham case, which began when a Royal Mail worker stole undelivered Clubcard vouchers he should have destroyed, criminals have hacked into online accounts to print and use vouchers.
In both cases, victims often don't realise they've been hit by fraud until they go to spend the vouchers they've saved up and find them gone.
In the Birmingham case, a postal worker stole undelivered Clubcard vouchers and sold them on to three men who went on to spend them online between July 2012 and January 2013.
One of the men bought items totalling £11,671 from Tesco online after buying Clubcard points for £2,000, essentially more than quintupling his initial purchase.
The men all admitted that they were guilty of fraud by false representation and were ordered to pay compensation in the amount of their Tesco purchases plus £200 in costs and to perform varying amounts of unpaid work.
The postal worker, who has also admitted guilt for charges of theft and fraud, will be sentenced by the court next month.
The prosecution of the Birmingham case highlights just how attractive the points of millions of Clubcard members are becoming to criminals.
Many cardholders collect points over years to buy flights or holidays and since vouchers can be printed out and spent without the named Clubcard they're easy to get rid of anonymously once they've been taken, making stockpiled points as attractive as cash, and not as secure.
In February last year, Tesco called in the police to investigate "a small number of incidents" of Clubcard theft.
Since then, Tesco haven't suffered the loss of any data - nothing like the Target theft on Black Friday in the US - and have denied that criminals have been able to gain direct access to their site, but reports of Clubcard theft have continued.
It seems likely, since Clubcard customers sign in with an email or password, that criminals are using passwords and email combinations taken from elsewhere and using them to gain access to Clubcard accounts.
However the frauds are being carried out, now is a good time for Clubcard customers to check their accounts and take steps to keep their Clubcards safe.
Clubcard: keeping safe
Clubcard customers that have lost points as a result of fraud should contact Tesco immediately.
Victims of fraud have had their Clubcard points or vouchers refunded by Tesco in full and, judging by their responses to cases in the past year, the supermarket does this quickly and sympathetically.
However, according to the Clubcard Terms and Conditions, Tesco may withdraw or cancel Clubcard accounts, "where there is reasonable belief of any abuse or attempted abuse of the scheme" so Clubcard may choose to look closely at some cases.
As ever when making a complaint, it's worthwhile getting as much evidence of what happened as possible.
While Tesco say they investigate incidents of fraud those affected may also want to report the theft to police through Action Fraud (0300 123 2040), to ensure they are aware of this issue.
Ultimately, though, prevention is far better than cure and Clubcard holders can help to prevent fraud by taking the following standard precautions with their accounts.
- Password security: a secure, difficult to guess password is now more important than ever. We like using Microsoft's password strength checker here to confirm passwords are secure.
- Phishing aware: Tesco have previously suggested that account details could have been disclosed through phishing emails (fake messages that aim to get people to disclose their information). Tesco have a guide to spotting their real emails here. Tesco also have an email address firstname.lastname@example.org which customers can forward fishy Tesco emails to.
- Update browsers and security software: it's best to be safe. Find out more about online safety in our guide here.
- Watch the post: the Birmingham case highlights how much the Tesco Clubcard scheme depends on the post. As always, keep post secure, especially if it's delivered to a shared area.
- Keep vouchers safe: Clubcard vouchers are valid for two years from the date of issue which makes them great for squirrelling away. However, voucher hoarders should treat their rewards as safely as they would cash. Lost vouchers can be reissued with the original expiry date, but that's no good if they've already been taken and redeemed.