How to keep your frequent flyer miles safe from thieves

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Thieves are stealing frequent flyer miles — but here's how to protect yourself
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Criminals seem to know no bounds in trying to swindle unsuspecting victims. One scheme that seems to be increasing in popularity involves thieves stealing passengers’ frequent flyer miles, according to reports. Loyalty programs like those from Delta and British Airways reportedly account for the majority of the thefts.

Even at 30,000 feet, travelers can fall victim to crooks looking to access their personal information. Comparitech, a tech site, reported recently that hackers were trying to sell frequent flyer accounts on the dark web. Here are some of the more disturbing details.

Report: Hackers selling frequent flyer accounts on dark web

On Dream Market, one of the largest black markets on the dark web, a single vendor sells reward points from over a dozen different airline reward programs, including Emirates Skywards, SkyMiles, and Asia Miles. Going by the handle @UpInTheAir, they sell a minimum of 100,000 points for the reward program of your choice, starting out at $884 as of time of writing (this was probably $1,000 originally, but Bitcoin price fluctuations caused it to go down).

The thing is, because the average person doesn’t check their frequent flyer miles as religiously as, say, their bank account, crooks can fly away with all of a traveler’s points and they’d be none the wiser — until they try to book a flight.

Criminals aren’t typically buying frequent flyer miles to redeem them for flights. They’d need proof of identification for that. But many loyalty programs allow fliers to redeem their points for gift cards or at shops, restaurants and other stores. Very few of these businesses ask for ID before purchase.

That means a hacker who has broken into a web server housing travelers’ personal information, such as usernames and PINs, can make quite a bit of money from raiding scores of frequent flyer accounts. That’s exactly what happened a few years ago when thieves accessed frequent flyer accounts from United and American airlines customers.

If you’re a member of an airline loyalty program, you don’t have to be a victim of this stolen frequent flyer account scam. Here’s how you can protect yourself.

How to protect yourself against this frequent flyer account scam

Regularly monitor your account: It may be a chore, but take a few minutes to regularly check your frequent flyer account for suspicious activity. Those few minutes you spend could save you big money and points.

Secure your password: Do you use the same password on multiple online accounts? Changing to a unique password on your frequent flyer account can offer another layer of protection and give you some piece of mind.

Destroy your boarding pass: Because boarding passes often include pertinent details about your account, it’s best to shred it after your trip.

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Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who still reads paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer. You can reach Craig at [email protected]
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