For those of you looking for Drama! Intrigue! Soap opera! Sorry to disappoint you, the title is clickbait. My husband is not jetting off to Mexico City or has a secret mistress there (at least not that I know of).
On a serious note, my heart goes out to the victims of the recent earthquake, as well as their families.What I am about to discuss is super trivial in comparison.
Anyway, the story is as bizarre as it gets. Though nothing should really surprise me when it comes to “cuckoo for cocoa puffs” world of IHG. So, I try to monitor my hotel and mileage accounts on a regular basis. The other day I logged into to my husband’s IHG profile and lo and behold, there is a 2-night reservation for a hotel in Mexico City. Say what?
Immediately I thought the account was hacked. However, no points were used and reservation was made for a flexible (not prepaid) rate. Since the hacker in question didn’t have our IHG credit card in their possession, what in the world did he/she have to get out of making the reservation in my husband’s name?
This whole ordeal transpired when we were going through post-Irma debacle. No A/C, hot water and I was sick with a sinus infection. And now on top of everything else, I had to deal with IHG to straighten out this whole mess. So I called to find out what’s going on. The rep put me on long hold and came back with good news. My husband’s account was not hacked after all.
What actually happened: the guest who was staying in Mexico City had the same first (but not last) name. The employee of the hotel somehow accessed my husband’s record by mistake and added his IHG number to the reservation. Very odd, to say the least.
IHG rep apologized to me and said that she would take care of it. However, few days later my husband got points credit for the stay:
My policy when the mistake is in our favor is to notify the program or bank about it once. If they fail to deduct the points, I won’t be messing with it and simply keep the windfall. I don’t have time or desire to spend hours on the phone just so they deduct the points from my account. Plus, we are talking about a small amount anyway. Obviously, I hope the guest gets the credit he (it was a he) deserves, but they will have to follow up on it. At this point, I’m washing my hands of this whole debacle.
It did make me wonder if we should participate in current Accelerate offer since one of my husband’s tasks was completed via this Mexico stay. Thanks, whoever you are!
The vulnerability of our accounts
This whole mess made me think about how easy it is for strangers to access our online accounts. Any employee in IHG franchise can apparently get into my profile without any issues. They can simply use points for a friend and it will be hard to trace it back to them. IHG is known to be extremely easy to hack anyway, and I’ve seen reports of people fighting with them for weeks to get the stolen points back.
Of course, as bad as it is to lose hotel points, it can be much worse. I’m sure by now you’ve seen reports of Equifax hack. This is an especially troubling news in the miles and points community because many of us have multiple credit cards. I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t always monitor them as carefully as I should.
I’ve had several of my credit cards hacked before. Someone used my Visa to buy airline tickets on Avianca, another person bought a space heater, and the list goes on. A fun story. One time my father in-law threw away a credit card at Home Depot. I don’t know the reasoning behind it, just the fact that it was active at the time. Well, someone fished it out from the trash can and my in-laws got a string of charges from various Home Depot stores, starting in Florida, all the way to North Carolina.
But you really don’t have to do anything to get your identity stolen these days. We live in a time when hackers are very sophisticated.
How you can protect yourself
While you can’t totally eliminate the threat of identity theft, you can take a few steps to minimize it. Here are some tips that pertain to miles and points hobby:
1) Monitor all of your credit card accounts on a regular basis. Mint is a decent place to do it. You can also access your credit reports for free on this website Just being vigilant is half the battle.
2) Sign up for free account at AwardWallet to keep track of your miles and points. It doesn’t support all programs, but quite a few.
3) Create complex passwords that are hard to hack.
4) Be picky when applying for credit cards. That’s what I preach anyway, but it definitely relates to the issue I’m discussing here. Logic dictates that the less credit cards you have, the less chance there is of someone hacking one of them.
5) Keep track of dormant credit cards and consider canceling the ones you are not using. It does depend, of course, on how long you’ve had them. Canceling the ones with short history shouldn’t impact your credit score in a negative way.
For other tips on dealing with identity theft and steps you should take, see this website
I’m not going to lose sleep over the fact that my accounts may get hacked. For one, it has already happened (multiple times). It is unpleasant to deal with, but this is the reality of the world we live in. Each time I was able to reverse the charge and suffered no losses, other than my time.
Miles and points hobby comes with risks, and I try to remind folks of this fact on a regular basis. Identity theft is only one of those risks. If you are not willing to accept them, it may be best to find another hobby. To me, the rewards I receive still outweigh potential negative consequences, but you may feel differently. Always do what’s right for you, even if it means walking away from millions of miles. After all, your sanity and happiness are priceless.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.