Summer travel scams: What to do if someone steals your frequent flyer miles

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Friday, June 16, 2023
What to do if someone steals your frequent flyer miles
Saving those frequent flyer miles for a special trip? Your travel rewards program can be taken over by thieves; here's what to do if it is.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As prices for hotels and airfare rise this travel season, so does the risk of having your travel rewards program taken over by thieves.

Security experts say frequent flier mileage and travel points are being targeted. They can be as valuable as money, and scammers can get into those accounts because too many of us are using old or weak passwords.

"(They) steal miles, they steal rewards, and then they try to sell them, right? Really, really cheap on the dark web," said security expert Michele Boland with Check Point Software Technologies.

Boland said bad guys are looking to for ways to take over your travel rewards.

"They do get password lists off the dark web. So these are stolen credentials or credentials that have been scraped, and they're out there for sale," she said.

To avoid the sale of your passwords, change them regularly. Also make sure they are strong, with plenty of characters. Sometimes a hacker can guess a weak password.

While people are used to protecting their banking accounts and their social media they don't always realize they need to make their passwords on frequent flier accounts strong, too.

"They should be strong. You should rotate your passwords on all of your accounts, and never use the same passcode," Boland said.

She also warned not to click on mysterious links and offers. Instead, go directly to the airline app or website.

Boland said you should also use multi-factor authentication on your travel apps and never log into them through a public Wi-Fi; those can be compromised.

She said a scammer may even call you.

"If someone calls you and says, 'Hey, this is your travel rewards program, and you qualify for a free upgrade. Just give us your credentials, or give us your account information or your travel rewards number, and we'll upgrade you.' Never trust that that stuff is legitimate," Boland advised.

If your frequent flier miles are stolen, file a report with authorities like the Federal Trade Commission or the FBI. Also reach out to your airline immediately and see if it can help.

"Get with them immediately," said Boland. "Let them know what happened. You know, you can actually establish a new account and try to transfer your stuff over."

If your travel reward account gets hacked, the credit cards or personal information you have stored on those apps may also be compromised. So if this happens to you, you should also have credit agencies put a fraud alert on your accounts.

The airlines' national association, Airlines for America, told the I-Team, "The U.S. airline industry is committed to prioritizing the safety, security and privacy of all passengers. U.S. airlines take cybersecurity very seriously and continuously work to protect their infrastructure from cyber threats to ensure systems and data are safe, secure and reliable."