Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The curious case of missing Tesco Clubcard vouchers

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Tesco Clubcard

Are you a Tesco Clubcard holder? If you’re British, then the answer is probably yes – there are around 16 million active cards out there, which means around 1 in 4 people across all ages. So you may want to be aware that some people’s vouchers have mysteriously disappeared.

Non-British readers may be a little confused, so here’s a brief explanatory paragraph. Tesco is Britain’s most popular supermarket, and Clubcard is its loyalty card – spend money in Tesco stores, and earn points. Roughly speaking you get one point for every pound spent, although bonus points are available, for example for re-using carrier bags. Then, provided you amass at least 150 points in a three month period, these get converted into vouchers. 1 point is worth 1 pence, so the smallest vouchers will be worth £1.50. These vouchers can be used for money off your shopping at Tesco, but also for a number of ‘deals’ with third party companies like RedSpottedHanky where they’re worth double.

Apparently Tesco uncovered a security breach in February, which resulted in vouchers being ‘stolen’. The vouchers appeared to have already been used, despite the owner of the vouchers not having used them. Whilst the issue happened over nine months ago, new victims seem to be cropping up all the time, including a family member of a friend on Facebook earlier this week.

The run-up to Christmas is when many people use up the vouchers that they have saved up throughout the year. I’ve previously seen a family put two full trolley loads through the checkout, and knocking the cash total down from £300 to £50, by using £250 of Clubcard vouchers. Imagine if that family had got to the checkout to find that their vouchers were now worthless.

If you find out your vouchers have been used without you knowing, then you need to contact Tesco. They seem to be good at replacing stolen vouchers, thankfully.

The police investigation into the security breach that caused this is, apparently, still ongoing as of last month. However, Tesco’s web site has known security problems with passwords being sent in plain text over email to users who have forgotten them. It’s not inconceivable that these emails may have been intercepted, although the Guardian article linked above seems to pin the blame on a phishing attack.

I’m fortunate that I’ve never lost any vouchers. Though I don’t shop in Tesco as much as I used to (their lack of lactose-free products has steered me towards online rival Ocado), I still regularly redeem my Clubcard vouchers for money off train travel, saving me at least £60-80 a year. It would be a bit of an inconvenience if they were to be stolen.

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