Boots has taken the unprecedented step of suspending payments using Advantage Card loyalty points – both instore and online – amid a wave of attacks from hackers attempting to break into customers’ accounts using stolen credentials.
The move comes just 48 hours after Tesco re-issued hundreds of thousands of Clubcards to combat a similar issue, triggered by the fact that so many consumers use the same username and password across numerous accounts.
Boots insists that none of its own systems have been compromised, and claims the issue affected less than 1% of 14.4 million active Advantage Cards accounts. Even so, this still equates to 150,000 customers.
The company also maintains that no financial data had been accessed and that the incident does not prevent customers from still earning points when making purchases.
In a statement, the retailer said: “We are writing to customers if we believe that their account has been affected, and if their Boots Advantage Card points have been used fraudulently we will, of course, replace them. We would like to reassure our customers that these details were not obtained from Boots.”
The company is advising customers to reset their passwords online by choosing a unique password not used on other sites.
Despite recent changes to some areas of the scheme, the Boots Advantage Card is one of the most generous on the market, members currently get ten points (worth 1p each) for every £1 spent on certain Boots products compared to Tesco Clubcard and Nectar which offer 0.5p for every £1 spent.
Last year, a major fraud trial at Cardiff Crown Court exposed just how easy it is for online criminals to gain access to even the most secure websites “through the back door”, simply because so many consumers use the same password for multiple sites.
The court heard how a gang raided the online accounts of millions of Tesco Clubcard and Boots Advantage Card customers and used the stolen reward vouchers to buy high end brands – including X-Box and PlayStation consoles as well as Tag Heuer watches – which were then sold on. The “brains” behind the operation, a former Tesco worker and serial offender was jailed for 30 months.
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