When Members Get Under the Skin of Loyalty Program Fraud Teams

Earlier I wrote about loyalty program fraud discussions that take place at the major programs and how they often prioritize the wrong things and start out with a ‘blame the customer mindset’ even when it is against the interests of their own program.

But I don’t want to leave the impression that all members behave reasonably towards these programs and that it’s only hackers that loyalty executives ought to worry about.

There are some benefits offered by programs that are in limited supply, where one member abusing the system takes away from other members benefiting.

A commenter raised IHG Rewards Club the program of Intercontinental, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and related brands. Did you ever wonder why it can be so tough to get PointBreaks availability at the best properties, that they disappear from the PointBreaks list quickly?

…and that much of IHG’s enforcement focus has been focused in China?

There are several folks there who would script IHG such that as soon as PointBreaks would become available they would make several bookings for every day in the eligible period, tying up inventory immediately. And then they would broker the rooms.

IHG took steps to limit the number of bookings per participating hotel that each account can make, which makes it somewhat more cumbersome to game although hardly ends things.

They also shut down many accounts. Some of those may have been illegitimate (I really think allowing people to sign up for promotions and then shutting down their accounts because they signed up is a tad unfair) but many who complained about account shutdowns were truly behaving badly.

You see, just because a program is paranoid doesn’t mean there aren’t members out to get them.

That’s never to excuse the sort of behavior towards members I’ve described, and in past posts where it did seem like one rogue fraud agent at Air France and also at American was closing down accounts unreasonably. But it helps to understand the bunker mentality some of them feel, where they see scams everywhere and begin to see customers as the enemy.

To me that’s when it is time to cycle them out of their role. It’s just understandable how they get there. But once they do, these foks can be detrimental to their programs.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “…To me that’s when it is time to cycle them out of their role. It’s just understandable how they get there. But once they do, these foks can be detrimental to their programs.”

    I wish more people had your view on this. Find them someplace else to work in the company.

  2. i don’t disagree with your comments in respect of the fraudulent activity in relation to Point Breaks, particularly in China, that is fraudulent, and to the detriment of all honest and well meaning loyal customers, i think most would agree that is totally wrong and not at all appropriate.

    What was totally inappropriate was when IHG changed their marketing strategy , and their marketeers lost out to their enforcement police, and didn’t notify customers of their change in strategy, until after the fact, they promoted codes on their own sites, and even asked the question if the code you had was from a friend, a property, name the source, i still get them from Award Wallet. That was a total stuff up by IHG management, and if they can’t recognise that, something in the management culture, is terribly askew, that’s polite speak. They could do with a little help with their IT too.

  3. @jamesb2147 don’t disagree, as thy start to benefit their competition, you would think it would become obvious to management, but i suspect their management culture is the key, there is a problem in that respect, many across various sites have commented on how erroneous IHG has been dealing with their customer base in such a heavy handed manner, i wouldn’t be surprised if we see a class action soon, when they upset the wrong people, and i also suspect it would be successful. The problem with the IHG management culture is they don’t act in the best interests of their shareholders, and that’s a major problem, for the organisation.

  4. The gold standard for any policing/enforcement/quasi-legal system is no really that hard to describe, you protect the innocent and punish the guilty.

    Trouble is sometimes those running these systems are not competent and heavy handed which means due process is not followed in determining the two.

    Part of this comes down to straight incompetence in setting up the programs, it should not be easy to “inadvertently” abuse the system and hence it would be clear who is just following the rules and those who aren’t. Unfortunately not the case and far easier to blame the customer.

    Customers are most companies lifeblood (despite a few being bad customers), if I had staff who truly think the customers are the enemy I’d be reminding them of this and if they dont respond would be doing more than cycling them in the company.

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