'All of My Chase Points Were Stolen'
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
My parents, Grandma and Grandpa Points, are in the miles and points game because I dragged them in. They didn't jump on the bandwagon (or airplane, as the case may be) overnight, but in their 60s, they saw the light and transitioned from using cash, checks and the occasional debit card to swiping rewards credit cards for the majority of their purchases and expenses. This method of using everyday expenses (and a few sign-up bonuses) to earn miles and points has allowed them to travel on their fixed budget in retirement significantly more than they ever dreamed possible.
Simple Redemption Turns Into Tale Of Missing Points
As they are planning another quick trip, this time to see the Christmas decorations in the White House later this year (assuming their request to visit gets approved), we went to transfer some Chase Ultimate Rewards points from my mom's Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to Hyatt so they could lock in lodging. Rooms at midrange hotels near the White House are selling for close to $400 per night on their dates, but Hyatt properties are available from just 12,000 Hyatt points per night.
My mom has been dealing with some fraudulent charges on her Chase Sapphire Preferred that have complicated things a bit, so earlier this week we called to request the points transfer over the phone using her new verbal password. Accessing her online Chase account isn't an option at the moment. The fraud she has been dealing with was to the point that someone we don't know had gained unauthorized access to her online Chase account, changed her email and mailing addresses, etc. The lady on the phone at Chase said she would be happy to make the points transfer, but that my mom only had about 1,400 Ultimate Rewards points available at the moment. Uh-oh.
Immediately I knew what had happened.
When the "bad guy" (or gal) gained access to her Chase Sapphire Preferred account online they didn't just make fraudulent charges to her card, they also stole her points. Why this wasn't caught weeks earlier when problems with her account first occurred is a mystery I can't answer, but the problem was clearly evident as we tried to use points that were no longer there.
The Chase agent on the phone was able to tell us the date the points were used and that they were transferred to another Chase account that belonged to someone with a last name that we very much did not recognize. Now, how they pulled that off is another mystery as combining Chase points is supposed to be limited to one member of your household.
After the problem was apparent, we were transferred to the fraud department who noted the information and said the points should be returned within 24 to 48 hours. She reassured us that since Chase fully covers you in the event of fraud, that stolen points are a part of that coverage.
"All Of My Chase Points Were Stolen"
However, before we hung up, I asked if they could check my mom's Chase Freedom account(No longer open to new applicants), as it occurred to me that if points were stolen from one card, odds are decent they could take them from another.
Sure enough, those points were all gone, too. But, this problem wasn't going to be quite as easy to solve.
Her Freedom Card hadn't yet been noted as being a victim of fraud, so starting a fraud case on the missing points apparently wasn't as straightforward as with her Sapphire Preferred. But, a few steps and call transfers later, and that card number was shutdown with a new one on the way. A second case was opened on those missing points. It was around this point that my mom — now a bit exasperated — shook her head and said, "All of my Chase points were stolen."
Forty-eight hours later, she picked up the phone to call Chase and see if the points were returned. We still needed to complete the transfer to Hyatt, which is what alerted us to the stolen points in the first place. As promised, the points that had been stolen from her Sapphire Preferred were replaced. However, the missing points from the Freedom were still ... missing. Apparently, these points weren't transferred to another Chase account, but they were cashed out with a $10 rush fee for an assortment of Amazon and iTunes gift cards.
I was not there for this phone call, but my mom relayed that they were not replaced within the originally stated 24 to 48 hours. Chase reportedly told her that she would receive a letter about those missing points within seven to 10 days.
All told, she had six-figures worth of Chase points stolen, and because the "bad guys" had changed her email and mailing addresses (and she subsequently lost online account access), she didn't even know the points were gone until she went to use them weeks later. While Chase had alerted her to the fraudulent purchases on her card, no one thought to check to see whether unauthorized point redemptions had also been made. Additionally, her other Chase cards were not checked at the time that it was determined fraud had occurred on one of her cards.
Reduce The Risk Of Fraud On Your Loyalty Accounts
So, what are the lessons here? First, of course you should choose a complex password and change it frequently. Second, be careful with your Wi-Fi connections, especially when traveling. Third, if there is any fraud detected on your credit card accounts, be sure and check your rewards points totals, too. If someone has gained access to your online account, the risk of your points being stolen increases exponentially. In fact, it isn't just credit card points that are stolen, but also airline miles and hotel points. The sources of this type of theft are seemingly endless.
If you are the unfortunate victim of fraud on one account, be sure and immediately check all of the other related accounts, at least from that specific bank. Her process would have been easier if all of the problems and thefts had been identified at once, as opposed to an increasing number of tickets and issues identified and opened over a period of time.
Additionally, if you receive an email notifying you that your mailing or email addresses have been changed (and you didn't do it) or any redemptions have been made from your accounts, investigate immediately. Be careful as emails like that can also be phishing scams, so contact your bank or loyalty program directly to investigate if you notice any such emails or messages.
Unfortunately, loyalty program theft and fraud isn't new, and doesn't seem to be going away any time soon. It is a dark side of this hobby, and one that my parents hope to avoid dealing with again any time soon as it is both frustrating and time-consuming. If it happens to you, stay calm, but be vigilant in getting the points returned. My mom's stolen Chase points saga is not yet fully over, but we'll stay on the case until every one of the valuable points is (hopefully) returned.