Thieves are going after your frequent flier mileage: how you can safeguard those miles and points

Apr 23, 2024, 10:16 PM | Updated: 10:38 pm

SALT LAKE CITY Summer travel is about to take flight. That means a whole lot of points and miles being used and earned, and cybercriminals know it.

“I’ve actually had this happen to me where miles were stolen,” said travel expert Katy Nastro of the flight deals website, Going. “Hackers can have the ability to hack things like loyalty accounts.”

One way they’re stealing travel points is through data breaches according to the credit bureau, Experian. Thieves are buying frequent flyer miles wholesale off the dark web, and then transferring those miles to different accounts so that travel can be booked under a different name. Points thieves will also send emails or texts spoofed to look like they’re coming from your go-to airline with the hope of tricking you into sharing your account credentials. They’ll also trick people by setting up fake online travel agencies with the lure of irresistible deals.

Nastro says one reason hackers go after travel points is people don’t protect them like a credit card or bank account.

“They want to keep those hard-earned miles and points close to the chest,” she said.

So, be wary of emails from your loyalty program touting killer deals. Don’t reply. Don’t click links. But do contact the company and ask if their deal is real. And for your loyalty program account, use a strong, unique password just like you would for your bank account.

“Be very, very different from the ones used for anything else,” Nastro cautioned.

If you can, set up multi-factor authentication. And check your point balance regularly. The earlier you report a theft, the better your odds of recovering your points.

Now, there’s no law that says an airline or hotel must refund stolen points. Nastro says, still, it’s worth a shot to ask.

“No airline is going to want to leave a sour taste in a customer’s mouth.”

If you find someone has taken your points or miles, in addition to notifying the company, Nastro says you should file a report with your police department. That doesn’t mean they’ll assign a crack team of detectives to your case, but it can help spur reimbursement.

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Thieves are going after your frequent flier mileage: how you can safeguard those miles and points