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I received the following email graphic from Starbucks today. I thought, hey that’s a good idea, but then I remembered something from 2015.

Reloading for Points !

A while back, I was the victim of a scam using this system. Starbucks’ customer list had been breached. Using that information, bogus Loyalty Cards were created.

The scam is well described in the graphic below. This outlines the importance of not turning on Automatic Reloads on any card like the Starbucks Reward Card.

It is important to audit your automatic bill payments as well.

The graphic shows how simple it is to start up a quick scam. I only clued in when my phone had many messages about the auto-reloads happening.

Loyalty Card Scam
A Graphic Rendition of the Scam

Things to take from this

  1. If you use your Credit Card to “refill” your Loyalty card, do not allow auto-reload.
  2. Turn on messaging, for the system to tell you when things happen. This will at least warn you about all activity.
  3. If you hear that your loyalty system has been hacked, change your card and log ins, right away. Do not assume it will not happen to you.
  4. Are the points that important? What is the risk to reward giving out your credit card for this reward?

Glad I wrote about this a while ago, or I might have done something silly.


Free Credit Bureau Access

I received the good news is that I have EquiFax for long period of time to check my credit bureau status. The better news is it is Free. The really bad news is the reason why. I was part of the Desjardins data-breach so now I am being “compensated” for this by getting Free Equifax.

Previously, I had access due to Home Depot having a data-breach. Surprisingly, my account with Equifax still existed (with the same password?). My access was granted for a long period of time, and I did notice a few things when I logged in.

  1. My first name is still incorrectly written in my report. This mis-spelling makes me wonder how accurate this report is. I tried to have it changed a while ago, but it never happened.
  2. I have a lot of Desjardins credit vehicles on my report. Makes me think someone DID create them and was simply waiting to use them? Will try to cancel all of those.
  3. A very large credit vehicle that should be on my report is not. That is interesting as well.
Credit Score
Credit Score by percentage in Canada

I am glad to see I have such an excellent Credit Rating, but it means nothing to me. It is most likely inaccurate, and unless I plan on buying another house I don’t really need it. The other danger is that given my Personal Info is compromised, any perpetrator could get away with a lot of money fraudulently.


Interesting that 57% of Canadians have Excellent Credit Ratings? That seems a little skewed, in terms of a data set. Either that or the actual term “excellent” has little or no meaning?


Senior Citizen Slamming

For those of you unaware of the marketing concept of slamming, my definition is “tricking” your competition’s customer(s) into changing service, without them being aware they are doing it. The “slam” is done by someone cold calling on the phone or showing up at your door. The tactics are reminiscent of the Fuller Brush Sales techniques (i.e. do anything to get in the front door, and you will have a sale). The bigger problem is that the door-to-door reps are Senior Citizen Slamming (i.e. tricking the elderly into services they don’t need or want).

More and more seniors are being duped, by these new age technology press gangs, into services they may not want. Someone very close to me was switched from one Television “cable” provider to another, and I still don’t know what happened exactly. I have been able to fix the situation, thanks to some help from friends in well placed spaces, but this makes me concerned about what about other seniors?

News services are full of stories of seniors being duped into giving up money to hucksters, this must stop. The first comment I get that goes, “caveat emptor” gets a swift kick in the behind.

Seniors and Technology

At our Church we are trying to help seniors with technology, and a few of us get together on a Saturday morning and try to answer parishioners’ questions about technology. The technology problems that bring these seniors to our get together are usually:

  • A loved one has purchased technology for the senior, thinking it would be a good thing. The problem arises when the Senior isn’t given any instruction or help with the technology. The technology ends up being unused.
  • The senior has been duped into purchasing a different type of technology by a salesperson who claimed, “it works just like the other thing”. No an Android phone and an iPhone are not the same to a Senior.
  • The senior inherited the technology from their spouse, who has since passed away.

We try to help out as best we can. It is frustrating to see how many Seniors are being tricked into buying expensive technologies that they are not able to use.

What To Do About Senior Slamming

It may sound dramatic, but I view slamming as senior abuse. Here are some simple things you can do to help your neighbours and loved ones in these situations:

  1. If you buy a Senior loved one technology sit with them until they feel comfortable using it. You simply deciding, ” … it is easy to use, they will figure it out …” is arrogance on your part. What would you do if someone gave you a mimeograph machine and told you to put out 100 leaflets with it? Never assume technology is obvious (to anyone). This mentoring may take a while, but it is important to the senior.
  2. If scum bag door to door folks trying to sell services are in your area, and you know you have older neighbours, warn them about these snake oil sales droids. Call your neighbour, or walk over to their place before the sales scum get there, and help your neighbours. For those who say my characterization of door to door folks as scumbags is harsh, you are wrong. If someone comes to my door to sell me a service they are either:
    • Think I can’t figure out how to call to get their service.
    • Viewing me as an easy mark. My only hope is that folks who do this kind of predatory sales trickery one day fall prey to similar tricks. Maybe in the next life inhabit the same level of Dante’s Inferno reserved for Usurers (Circle 7, I believe)
  3. Follow up with the senior about any phone scams going on too. Remind them that no one from the CRA will ever call them and ask for money. Tell them that if a “loved one” calls asking for money in a foreign country, they should be skeptical.

Protect our seniors.


Auto Loading Your Loyalty Card is a Bad Idea

I ran into a very bad issue with my Starbucks loyalty card about a few years ago, 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 loyalty 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 loyalty 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).


No Bank Would Do That! (or the Ideal Bank Customer)

Found this classic post about what a Bank might think is an ideal bank customer.

My post yesterday about a Real Service for Chronic Over Spenders is at best naive at worst, unlikely ever to happen. Why wouldn’t a bank run a service like this? The answer is simple. It does not make them any money.

The Ideal Bank Customer

Banks make money on:

  • Customers who carry balances on their credit cards.
  • Customers that use the over-draft service available to them.
  • Folks with bad credit that don’t get preferential interest rates.
  • Consumers who do not carry the minimum balances in their bank accounts to get free banking (and thus pay $25 a month in service fees)
  • Debtors who do not pay back their loans quickly (i.e. they do not make over payments)

This is an exciting paradigm for the Banks.

Banks must portray themselves as being helpful, trustworthy, and someone who wants you to succeed in your financial journey, when in fact, anyone who does follow does not make the bank a lot of money. I have friends who have paid off their mortgages in 5 years instead of 25 years, saving themselves tens of thousands of dollars (but in turn costing the bank tens of thousands of dollars in lost interest earnings). Yet, the bank must publicly say that this is a good customer, even though they are bad for their business.

An ideal bank customer makes minimum payments on their debts (especially their credit cards), incurs many service fees (or penalties), and rarely talks to anyone in the bank about their issues. Reading that sentence, it seems to be an oxymoron, in that it appears to be a description for a bad client, but if all you look at is the bottom line, banks will fight over getting these customers.

How do they fight over them? They offer interest-free credit cards (for the first six months), lower interest rates on loans (for the first year), and other attractive marketing gimmicks (free iPods even). These customers make banks much more money than someone caring about their debt load, and they keep meticulous records of every purchase and pay things off quickly.


This week I have let my imagination run a little wild on the problem of how to help people who spend too much or that are chronically in debt, but at the end of it, the answers are evident:

God helps those that helps themselvesAnonymous

The banks will help you, but be careful of the help you get Big Cajun Man

It is like guns don’t kill people. People kill people argument the NRA uses, in an obtuse way of thinking. People get into debt trouble because they can’t control their spending and try to fix their spending issues with more debt, which the bank gladly obliges the financial death spiral (TM) begins.

Conclusion: Getting out of debt is hard work. Choose your tools to get out of debt carefully (unless you would like to try out a prototype Financial Shock Collar, then contact me).


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