7Investigates: Stolen Frequent Flyer Miles

Criminals hacking into airline accounts and stealing frequent flyer miles. It’s a crime that’s taking off nationwide, and 7Investigates found out how to protect yourself from becoming the next victim.

Whether they’re swiping credit cards or booking flights, frequent flyers love their precious points. But cybercriminals are now taking aim at your airline miles.

Last year, Bonnie, who lives in Cambridge, got an email that said some of her American Airlines frequent flyer miles were used to book a flight.

But Bonnie was not one of the passengers. It turns out someone used her airline miles to book five different domestic flights, stealing a total of 120,000 miles.

“I called and they said, ‘They hacked into your account,’” Bonnie said.

Cambridge Police estimated that those miles were worth about $2,400.

“I was furious,” Bonnie said.

And she’s not alone. 7Investigates found at least two other stolen miles cases reported to police in the last year in Cambridge alone. In one case, someone stole 80,000 miles to book a flight from Orlando to New York City and two flights from New York City to London.

“This is a niche for bad guys that understand it’s easy to commit and hard to get caught for,” said Robert Siciliano, CEO of Safr.me, a security awareness training firm.

Siciliano, who is also a cybersecurity expert, said airline miles are an easy target because most people don’t check their miles accounts very often.

“So you may not fly for six months to a year or more, and after a period of time, notice that all your points or miles are gone – and then it’s too late,” Siciliano said.

American Airlines told 7Investigates that criminals somehow got ahold of Bonnie’s email password and used that same password to log into her miles account.

That’s why experts say you should make sure your airline account passwords are different from your other passwords – and changed regularly. Keep your miles account numbers private – so don’t post pictures of your boarding passes online. And if your miles are stolen, file a report with police.

Once Bonnie gave American Airlines a copy of her police report, the airline replaced the 120,000 miles that were stolen.

She now says other travelers should keep a close eye on their miles accounts.

“You should notice what you have and you should notice if it’s gone down,” Bonnie said.

(Copyright (c) 2019 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)