Loyal customers are an organization’s most valuable asset. They generate more revenue – buying 5-20 percent more frequently than more infrequent customers– and their positive customer reviews help brands stand out among competitors.
Fraudsters are focused on loyalty accounts for two primary reasons: rewards accounts are a high-value item (worth $48 billion in the U.S. alone), and most rewards accounts have a relatively low security threshold, making them an easier target than traditional bank accounts.
Customers expect financial institutions to have the highest level of fraud protections in place, but online fraud is constantly evolving. And while financial institutions have rigorous systems in place to prevent banking fraud, one very valuable asset is often left exposed: loyalty rewards accounts.
Rewards points and miles hold true cash value. However, with fewer monitoring and protection measures in place than traditional bank accounts, the unfortunate reality is that loyalty reward programs are seen as easy targets by fraudsters.
Loyalty program members, especially those in the financial services industry, expect those companies to guard their personal information in the most robust way possible. And while 72 percent of loyalty program managers report experiencing fraud, many are challenged to build a case internally for this type of protection.
Economists report there is currently $238 billion dollars’ worth of loyalty currency in accounts that is vulnerable to hackers. This high value, relatively lower security and less protection (especially compared to bank accounts) makes loyalty and rewards accounts a prime target for hackers and thieves.
With 3.3 billion memberships in the U.S. alone, loyalty programs are worth $48 billion, according to Colloquy. Hackers and thieves see valuable loyalty currencies — the cache of points and miles socked away in countless programs — as easy targets since customers often monitor them less, compared to other financial assets.
In recent years Hannah White has become something of a loyalty fraud aficionado. In fact, over the course of a 45-minute interview for this story, she admits that she probably has enough material to talk about loyalty fraud for an entire day.
Loyalty fraud is a real and growing threat, and it’s only getting worse. Airlines, financial services firms and retailers are falling victim to cyber-thieves, who, in the face of highly secured financial systems, are moving on to points and miles programs that are typically more exposed and at greater risk.