Boarding pass breach?

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- With millions of people set to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday next week, the ABC7 I-Team is looking into why your airline boarding pass can be a gold mine for thieves.

Most of us throw our boarding passes out - or you may even leave it in the airplane seat pocket. But the I-Team talked to two security experts who showed us how that detailed information can create a boarding pass breach.

From the kiosk to security, and then the seat pocket - or the trash.

Taneisha Peralta, a traveler: "I toss it when I am done pretty much."
ABC7 Jason Knowles: "Do you shred it?
Peralta: "No I don't shred it."

Most of us don't keep track of our boarding passes after we get to our destination. Some of us post them online for the world to see! The problem?

"Boarding passes are a potential treasure trove to an identity thief," said Professor William Kresse, Governors State University.

Knowles: "What information can you really get from a boarding pass?"

Kresse: "Some airlines print right on the boarding pass such things as your name, first name, last name, and your frequent flier number. Others will have it encoded and printed. Others place it into a bar code and if you use the right app you got that information."

Yes, scanner apps can read the bar code info. Kresse and other experts say once a thief has it, they can attempt to guess your password or pin to access your frequent flier account online.

"They can go into your account they can change your flights they can steal the miles you have banked," Kresse said. "If you have your credit card tied on the frequent flier account they can purchase gift cards for that airline up to $1,000."

The I-Team showed travelers how easy it is to swipe their information.

Knowles: "Ok I just scanned the barcode and I have all of that information here in the app, all of that information. How does that make you feel?"
Stacey Gee, a traveler: "Not very secure."

Knowles: "Does it worry you?"
Keilani and Landrea Jackson: "Yes it does, especially with her because she's only 9."
Knowles: "Now you'll be ripping out your boarding pass."
Keilani: "Absolutely. Yeah I will."

After scanning those passengers' boarding passes, Knowles immediately deleted their information.

The International Air Transport Association says bar codes are used as an industry standard for security, but there is no requirement that frequent flier numbers be included and each airline makes its own decision.

"There you see the reservation number again, and here it's actually got my full, my full frequent number," said Peter Tapling.

Illinois Technology Association member Tapling says even without a frequent flier number, a crook can use other information to dig into your itineraries and more.

"With a full legal name and a reservation number, you have the springboard to get into an account and begin to hunt around and see what else you might be able to do," Tapling said. "Essentially, anything that has a barcode on it that can uniquely identify you, that barcode can be decoded and some amount of information can be extracted."

And an additional threat, Kresse says international airlines sometimes print your passport number and country of origin on the boarding pass! And that, too, could get into the wrong hands.

Even if information on your boarding pass is minimal, you should still tear it up or shred it. Sometimes crooks will slowly build profiles on victims with small bits of information.

You can also use mobile boarding passes, but those too should be deleted in case you lose your phone.

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