Users of the SAQ's new Inspire rewards program have recently noticed their points disappearing, but they weren't the ones using them.

Anne-Sophie Hamel-Longtin, the director of public affairs for the provincial liquor board, is calling the situation "fraud," but she said it's unclear how, exactly, it's being carried out.

The SAQ only knows of a handful of clients who have experienced the issue, but there could be more.

CBC Montreal's Daybreak spoke to Hamel-Longtin and Yves Mailloux, president of the Great Wine Tasting Club of Montreal and wine columnist for Huffington Post Quebec, about the situation.

Here is what you need to know.

What happened?

Starting at the end of January, about 15 Inspire account holders noticed their point totals had decreased, but they had never used them, so they contacted the SAQ.

There are about 1.9 million people enrolled in the program.

What have they lost?

The affected clients lost between $40 and around $100 in rebates. Clients get five points for each dollar spent, and 1,000 points amounts to $1 off. 

How did this happen?

The SAQ isn't quite sure. It has launched an investigation, but Hamel-Longtin was tight-lipped about the details. The authorities have also been notified.

An SAQ employee was fired last year when irregularities were identified with that employee's Inspire card, but that was an isolated case, Hamel-Longtin said.

SAQ

The SAQ isn't sure how the fraud happened, but it is investigating. (Radio-Canada)

Was there a data breach?

Signing up for a card requires customers to provide their name, address and birthday, among other information, but Hamel-Longtin said there are no concerns about a data breach at this point in the investigation.

The issue seems to be with people's card numbers, and data related to card numbers and personal information aren't kept on the same server in the system, she said.

What is the SAQ doing?

The SAQ is refunding the points, deactivating old cards and giving people new cards.

It is also bolstering security measures to make sure information is secure.

 "Of course, risk zero does not exist — there are always people that can have bad intentions and are creative, not in a positive way," Hamel-Longtin said.

The SAQ is also considering creating a PIN system for the card.

Is the SAQ doing enough?

Wine expert Yves Mailloux doesn't think so. He said it's odd that only lucrative accounts were targeted and doesn't think the SAQ is being transparent enough about the danger of having personal information stolen.

What should you do if you suspect you've been targeted?

Call the SAQ and let it know:

  • 514-254-2020 in the Montreal area.
  • 1-866-873-2020, toll free.
With files from CBC's Daybreak