If theft and loss were among the big retail stories of 2023, this year is already shaping up to have asset protection top of mind among grocers.

On Jan. 4, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced felony charges in the case of stolen mPerks rewards from Meijer customers. A 22-year-old from Grand Haven, Mich., Nicholas Mui, was arrested for the theft and sale of shoppers’ account access information.

Nessel and her team contend that Mui got login credentials from a separate data breach and subsequently sold logins on the internet. Users used that account information to steal mPerks points for their own purchases. According to the AG’s office, Meijer’s infrastructure was not directly breached.

Meijer tipped off authorities to the potential crime following a series of customer complaints in spring 2023. The retailer’s corporate investigators worked with the Michigan State Policy Fraud group and the AG’s team to discover the culprit; in September, officers acting on an authorized search warrant seized more than $400,000 in cash and cryptocurrency.

A Meijer spokesperson told Progressive Grocer that that the identification and arrest of the suspect was a collaborative effort. In a written statement, the spokesperson declared, “We appreciate the efforts of the Michigan State Police and the Attorney General’s FORCE Team, in partnership with our Asset Protection team, to bring this individual to justice. This situation highlights the importance of changing passwords often and not using the same password for multiple platforms. We encourage any customer who believes they were a victim of this individual’s actions to contact Meijer customer care at 1-877-363-4537.”

Meijer took early action to deal with the effects of the alleged crime, reinstating the full balance of accrued points to affected customers. The incident was not without cost, as Nessel pointed out.

“This theft operation affected hundreds of Meijer customers and mPerks account holders, and cost the grocery chain over one million dollars,” added Nessel. “It is our belief we apprehended the main operative and driver of this sophisticated, wide-spread criminal enterprise, and I’m grateful for the partnership between my FORCE Team, the Michigan State Police, and Meijer,” she said.

In related news, credit card skimmers are also causing headaches for retailers around the country as 2024 unfolds. Recently, skimmers were found at self-checkout areas at Roche Bros. Supermarkets locations in the Boston area, including a Sudbury Farms in Needham, a Brothers Marketplace in Weston and two Roche Bros. stores in Wellesley and Natick.

This week, police in Germantown, Wis., announced that a skimming device was found at a Sendik’s store in that town near Milwaukee. Additionally, Giant Eagle confirmed that skimmers were discovered at a store in Powell, Ohio. After a thorough review, additional devices were found at four other Giant Eagle locations in Ohio.

In a news release, Giant Eagle clarified some of the security issues. “Because most customers either insert or tap their chipped cards, the vast majority of customers visiting these stores are not affected. Importantly, the only information at risk includes the payment card number and service codes,” a spokesperson wrote. Still, the grocer advised customers who patronized the stores to monitor their accounts.

Privately owned Meijer is based in Grand Rapids, Mich., and is No. 23 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named the company one of its Top 10 Most Sustainable Grocers and Best Regional Grocery Chains in America. Mansfield, Mass.-based Roche Bros. operates 20 locations in the state. Established by the Balistreri family in 1926, Sendik’s operates 19 stores in the Milwaukee metro area, including Sendik’s Food Markets and convenience-oriented Fresh2 Go banners. Giant Eagle operates approximately 480 stores throughout western Pennsylvania, north central Ohio, northern West Virginia, Maryland and Indiana. The company is No. 40 on The PG 100.

Original article found at Progressive Grocer.