June Mealing had the shock of her life when she discovered that the 36,000 points she’d accumulated on her Nectar supermarket loyalty card had mysteriously vanished.
June, 61, regularly shops at Sainsbury’s in Fareham and is just one of a growing number of victims targeted by thieves hacking into their shopping reward accounts.
It’s always kept in my purse and I only get it out of my handbag when I go to the supermarket.June Mealing
The Nectar scheme allows customers of a number of retailers, including Sainsbury’s, BP and Tesco, to collect points against their purchases which can then be used to obtain a discount on future shopping.
Crooks had raided June’s online Nectar account and helped themselves to points worth a minimum of £180.
She only noticed they’d gone when she checked the account balance. The points had disappeared overnight and apparently been redeemed in a London Argos store she’d never visited.
The retired local government officer had been saving them up to go towards the cost of kitting herself out for a Christmas break to visit her youngest daughter and three grandchildren in Melbourne, Australia.
June was looking forward to spending time with her family and soaking up the sun.
She had signed up for the card almost three years earlier when she moved to Fareham to be closer to her son after husband Dennis died following a long illness.
Worryingly, Nectar is another in a growing line of reward schemes to be targeted by fraudsters.
The firm has since gone to great lengths to review its security measures after an increasing number of incidents where crooks have logged into reward accounts, stealing points and spending them in major high street store chains.
June said: ‘Not only did the theft come as a shock, it just added insult to injury. I’m normally so careful with cards.
‘It’s always kept in my purse and I only get it out of my handbag when I go to the supermarket.
‘I didn’t report the matter to Nectar immediately because my first priority was to cancel my debit and credit cards.’
But when she did report the theft to Nectar, she was told it might take weeks to resolve and there was no guarantee she’d get her points back.
June was disappointed at this lacklustre response so, after a few weeks had passed with no further contact, she rang again and spoke to a customer service adviser.
She says he was most unhelpful, assumed she’d forgotten she’d spent them and said there was nothing they could do.
He also insisted that as she had delayed reporting the theft, they’d need to carry out an exhaustive investigation which might take many weeks.
When June told Streetwise about the problem, our investigation revealed Nectar cards were apparently being cloned and the points redeemed by a network of mainly London-based fraudsters.
Action Fraud, the national police fraud reporting centre, had also investigated a number of previous incidents where store checkout staff had been caught using blank Nectar cards and cloning them to steal points worth thousands of pounds.
But Tesco told us it believed fraudsters steal people’s Nectar passwords mainly through phishing emails and use them on the Clubcard website on the off-chance their victims use the same personal security details.
We were concerned that Nectar’s card security might not fit for purpose. Anyone who was a little computer savvy could access the card data as no PIN or second layer identity information was needed to verify the cardholder was genuine.
Streetwise asked Nectar to comment about the situation and the help it was providing people like June, who’d been swindled out of thousands of hard-earned loyalty points.
A spokesperson said: ‘The security of our customers’ accounts is our highest priority.
‘We have rigorous processes and procedures in place to constantly monitor for fraudulent activity and we regularly invest in new technologies to protect our customers’ accounts. If a customer has any questions or issues, they can contact our helpline on 0344 811 0811.’
Streetwise advised June to write to Nectar and Sainsbury’s about the theft, including relevant times and dates.
We also helped her with contacting Action Fraud to get an incident reference number.
She said: ‘I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all your help. I spoke to Nectar’s helpline again and now they know you’re on my case the response was much more helpful.
‘I hope you’ll warn others about loyalty card fraud and that they heed your advice to check all their loyalty card accounts as a precautionary measure and change passwords.’