Ontario liquor workers fired for Air Miles fraud
Published Sunday, May 17, 2009 3:26PM EDT
OTTAWA - The Ontario liquor board has fired at least 10 workers in the last year for scooping up Air Miles meant for customers.
The employees were nabbed after the Liquor Control Board of Ontario gained access to their Air Miles accounts and found they were using personal cards to accumulate points on customer sales.
The 10 incidents identified in 2008-09 are a sharp rise from a single instance detected the previous year, and six cases in total the year before that.
An internal audit, obtained by The Canadian Press under the province's freedom-of-information legislation, suggests the increase in fraudulent behaviour is linked to the recession.
"Given the current economic conditions, many retailers are expecting an increase in the amount of inappropriate behaviour by front line staff," says the document.
The audit, dated October 2008, urged LCBO managers to be extra-vigilant during the Christmas holiday season as more temporary workers came on staff.
The board developed a protocol with LoyaltyOne Inc., the company that runs the Air Miles program, in August 2006 that allows LCBO auditors access to private card information if fraud is suspected.
"The Air Miles program provides collector information ... only after an organization has exhausted all of its own methods for identifying potential fraud," said LCBO spokesman Chris Layton. "Air Miles follows strict internal guidelines."
The protocol adheres to federal law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, intended to protect the privacy of Canadians, he added.
Any personal information turned over to the LCBO by LoyaltyOne must be destroyed or deleted within 180 days under the arrangement.
The internal audit indicated that fraud has a "potential monetary impact" on the LCBO because of the cost of providing Air Miles, but Layton said beverage alcohol suppliers actually absorb most of the costs of issuing rewards.
The liquor board's staff guidelines for issuing Air Miles, which date back to 2004, forbids the rewards from being used on any but the customer's card.
"Staff are ... prohibited from using the purchase by any customer to issue reward miles to their own personal account or the account of other staff, family, friends, other customers or any other person," says the policy.
Cashiers intercepting reward miles fraudulently can simply swipe their own card at the time of purchase if the customer does not present a card.
Layton noted that Air Miles fraud is committed by only a small fraction of the LCBO's 7,000 employees, and that the audit indicated that current surveillance and enforcement measures need not be changed.