Stealing a Stranger’s Miles to Book Award Flights is a Very Serious Crime
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Update 2/2/17: As part of a plea deal, Avazdavani was convicted of the following charges, as per Miami-Date County:
Count 1: White Collar Crime/Aggravated (1st degree felony)—three (3) years in prison followed by four (4) years of probation;
Count 2: Organized Fraud/Scheme to Defraud/$50,000 or More (1st degree felony)— three (3) years in prison followed by four (4) years of probation;
Count 3: Grand Theft 2d – dismissed because of the plea to count 2 (double jeopardy issue);
Counts 4-12: Offense Against Intellectual Property (2nd degree felony)— three (3) years in prison followed by four (4) years of probation, counts to run concurrent;
Counts 13-15: Fraudulent Use of Personal Identification Information/$5,000 or more (2nd degree felony) — three (3) years in prison, with a three (3) year minimum mandatory, followed by four (4) years of probation, counts to run concurrent;
Count 16: Trafficking in Counterfeit Credit Cards (2nd degree felony)— three (3) years in prison followed by four (4) years of probation;
Count 17-19: Unlawful Possession of a Stolen Credit/Debit Card (3rd degree felony) — three (3) years in prison, followed by two (2) years of probation, counts to run concurrent;
Count 20: Unlawful Possession of the Personal Identification Information of Five or More People (3rd degree felony) — three (3) years in prison, followed by two (2) years of probation;
Count 21-24: Fraudulently Use or Possess with Intent to Fraudulently Use Personal Identification Information(3rd degree felony) — three (3) years in prison, followed by two (2) years of probation, counts to run concurrent;
Count 25: Possess Equipment to Make Credit Cards (3rd degree felony) — three (3) years in prison, followed by two (2) years of probation; and
Count 26: Possess Cannabis with Intent to Sell (3rd degree felony) — three (3) years in prison, followed by two (2) years of probation.
Mr. Avazdavani will serve three years in prison followed by four years of probation, and will likely be deported back to Iran at the end of his prison sentence. Additionally, he was ordered to pay American Airlines $18,478.80 in restitution to cover reservations made that AA was unable to cancel.
Given how easy it can be to rack up lots of miles and points, it’s no surprise that we’re often asked if it’s possible to send miles to a third party in exchange for cash. The short answer is yes, it’s possible, but it’s against the terms and conditions of virtually every loyalty program — while you can book travel for someone else, you can’t do so in exchange for cash. Stealing someone else’s miles, however, is flat-out illegal.
Milad Avazdavani has been in a Florida jail for a year now awaiting trial — he’s accused of stealing American Airlines miles worth “more than $260,000,” which he allegedly redeemed for hotels and rental cars.
— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) April 30, 2016
According to reports, Avazdavani stole miles from many different American Airlines customers — one man who had 275,000 miles stolen noticed that someone had booked four plane tickets and two hotel stays without his permission. He contacted the police and the airline, which reinstated the stolen miles.
Airlines and hotel programs alike take fraud very seriously, and frequently add measures to protect accounts, as Marriott did last year. United Airlines even offers frequent flyer miles to customers who point out security flaws with its “Bug Bounty” program. Despite loyalty program efforts, however, individual users can still be taken advantage of if their credentials are compromised in some other way — for example, if your login information is compromised during a bank website breach and you use the same username and password on an airline or hotel program’s site, thieves could easily access your points and miles.
If you know that your login info has fallen into the wrong hands, be sure to change your password for any accounts with matching credentials. If a thief does manage to steal your points or miles, the program will likely work to have them restored, especially if the program is at fault. That said, it’s best to avoid that situation if you can help it.
Have you had your points or miles stolen?
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