Miles and points are a form of currency- these days they can be redeemed for a whole lot more than just travel. That flexibility is valuable, so it’s not surprising that there are scammers out there looking to gain access to your accounts to not only drain your miles, but also gain access to the bevy of personal and credit card information stored in online profiles.
Fraud and identity theft isn’t news in the credit card world, but I recently came across an interesting article by Jennifer Walters, the consumer reporter for MarketWatch, about schemes to access frequent flyer accounts. Is nothing sacred anymore?!
The good news is that these scams seem to be a bit more rudimentary than your average credit card identity theft. Scammers email frequent flyer members “phishing” for account information by pretending they’re official airline representatives.
According to Walters: “You get an email from a trusted source, like an airline or travel site or travel agent, notifying you that you have won more miles or confirming a charge for a flight or hotel stay that you did not book.”
The phisher then asks the target to provide verification information on the account in order to either register the fake “prize” or cancel the fake reservation. Then they have complete access to that person’s account.
Some people were conned out of their miles because they received faxes from their airlines saying they’d won roundtrip tickets and needed to call in with their account information to claim them.
Potentially even worse than losing your mile is if you click on a fraudulent link in a phishing email or enter in any personal information, you could be opening up your computer to malware, which can then steal even more of your personal information, putting your entire financial identity at risk.
As always, treat all unsolicited emails – ones you haven’t signed up for, not your monthly AAdvantage email newsletter – with suspicion, look at links carefully before clicking on them, and if in doubt, call the airline directly at a number that you find by going to their site, NOT a number in the email. It could mean the difference between keeping your miles safe, or watching someone wreak havoc with your credit.
Several airlines have fraud warnings and reporting systems for consumers. Here are the ones I found:
Report any fraud as soon as your find it because airlines aren’t liable for miles stolen from your account, but the sooner you catch any fraudulent activity, then better the chances are of them figuring out who was responsible and you getting your miles back.
To prevent this, treat your frequent flyer accounts like bank account logins: change passwords frequently and constantly monitor for unauthorized activity. I personally like American AAdvantage’s system of emailing a receipt every time miles are redeemed from your account and I wish other airlines had similar systems to alert you when miles are used.
I luckily haven’t had to deal with this, but would love to hear from anyone who has, so please comment below with any positive/negative experiences with mileage theft and fraud.