Ask Andy: Kroger Plus Cards

(WMC TV) - Disappearing fuel points and meat rebates reveal a vulnerability within Kroger's customer savings card.

Three weeks ago, Kroger's Delta Division discovered select stores mislabeled an untold number of Angus beef cases as Choice beef. The mistake caused dozens of Kroger customers to be overcharged on beef purchases. According to Joe Bell, the division's manager of public affairs, several customers were overcharged several times, a few as much as $600.

To track the purchases, Bell said Kroger traced its Kroger Plus savings card purchase data and determined that anyone who purchased the overpriced meat over an 18-month period was due a rebate. Kroger issued the rebate as a credit on those customers' savings cards and disclosed the refund to them by receipt and by automated phone call.

Angie Stewart Forester of East Memphis received notice that she was due an $80 portion of the meat rebate.

But she said when she tried to redeem it, it was gone.

"We thought it was theft," said Forester. "We thought that someone had probably accessed the codes."

Bell said Kroger's research discovered most customers either use their home phone numbers or a former phone number as their Kroger Plus card alternate ID number. Many people are disconnecting their home numbers in favor of their cell phones.

When customers cancel their home numbers, their phone companies re-issue those numbers to new customers under new accounts.

Sometimes, those new account-holders -- are Kroger Plus customers, too.

See where we're going with this?

"You may be using a phone number that you think is very secure and tied to your Kroger Plus card, and yet when you change (phone service) providers, six months later, somebody else may be using that," said Bell.

The breach may also cost Kroger customers their accumulated fuel points for discounts at the stores' gas stations.

"Through our research, we've found that someone will lose fuel points off their card, and they'll call us, saying, 'Somebody's using my card! Something's happened!,'" Bell said. "Most of the time, it's where a phone number has changed and an alternate ID they have attached to it has changed."

In Forester's case, she discovered one of her own relatives had unintentionally redeemed her meat rebate. Her relative's Kroger Plus card shared the same alternate ID number.

"We were pulling from the same account, and that was it," she said.

If your Kroger Plus card alternate ID is a home or cell phone number, you should change it immediately to a new 10-digit number. Guest services at any Kroger location can help you change the number within minutes and confirm it at one of the location's U-Scan registers.

If you are a Kroger customer who was entitled to the meat rebate, you would have been notified by both a disclosure on a purchase receipt and an automated phone call.

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