Auto Loading Your Loyalty Card is a Bad Idea

I ran into a very bad issue with my Starbucks Loyalty card a while back, when all the information in the Starbucks database was hacked and my account information was stolen. This information hack allowed the thieves to create their own version of my Starbucks card, and they “went to town” on it.

Let me digress , remember that the Starbucks Loyalty “card” is not a credit card per se, it is a card which is “filled” from a money source so that you can buy things (note I said things not just coffee) at Starbucks (and collect allegiance points and such). You can “fill” the card from a bank account, a credit card or even your Pay Pal account, and you can fill it one time or you can set up the “Auto Load” mechanism. The auto-load mechanism will take money automatically when your loyalty account balance drops to zero (or a preset threshold), and this is where the hackers found their angle.

The scam seems to run like this, once your account or card is “cloned” someone goes into a Starbucks store, and buys $100 worth of things (most times just a gift card), and then the auto-load kicks in, takes money from its source (Credit Card, Bank Account, etc.,) and then the thief go to another store and will buy another card, and this continues on until the account is flagged or in my case, I saw what was going on and called to cancel the auto-load. The only reason I knew this was happening was because I got notifications on my phone telling me that the auto-loads happening.

Loyalty Card Scam

A Graphic Rendition of the Scam

In my case I was lucky enough to catch it early, and Starbucks was smart enough to refund me all the money taken (after 15 business days).

Since this incident I have gone to any other loyalty cards that I have like this and turned off the auto-load option, to stop this scam from happening again (some examples might be a Tim Horton’s card or maybe your Subway Card?).

This is not a commentary on the Starbucks Brand or Coffee (I still drink it and enjoy it), but a reminder of the fact that the easier it is for you to spend money, the easier it is for the scammers to find a way in to get at your money (and spend easily as well).


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