Scammers ruining travel plans by stealing victims' frequent flyer miles

With trillions of frequent flier miles going unused, scammers have a very large, lucrative target in America’s hard-earned miles.

Imagine logging into your airline frequent flyer account and—after years of saving to claim a free flight—you find a balance of zero miles. Sadly, with an estimated 14 trillion frequent flier miles and hotel points floating around unused, scammers have a very large, lucrative target in America’s hard-earned miles. 

With the Thanksgiving travel season just around the corner, that unfortunate scenario could be a real possibility if you don’t know how to avoid or spot frequent flyer scams. 

Scammers can easily purchase frequent flyer account usernames and passwords on the dark web due to numerous data breaches in which this sensitive info was compromised. If a consumer does not take care to use proper password hygiene, scammers may be able to break into their online loyalty accounts and drain all of their points simply by guessing, or by using a compromised password from a previous breach.  

Regardless of whether you are saving frequent flyer miles, hotel points, credit card points, or even pizza or coffee reward points, these points have value and are often a target of scammers. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to guard your points from being stolen: 

  • Use strong passwords. Secure your points the same way you would your bank accounts. Avoid simple or easy to guess passwords to prevent point theft, and never reuse passwords. If you reuse password across multiple sites or accounts, and one of the accounts is breached, other accounts with the same passcode are extremely vulnerable. If you have a hard time remembering many unique passwords, a password manager program can be a lifesaver. 
  • Utilize two-factor authentication. While two-factor authentication may make logging into your accounts take a little more effort, it adds an extra layer of security which could very well make the difference between a free trip and paying out-of-pocket. For information on whether your rewards program website offers two-factor authorization, visit www.twofactorauth.org. 
  • Monitor your accounts. Keep an eye on your account for unauthorized withdrawals or suspicious activity. If you spot anything suspiciousreport it to the company immediately. 
  • Safeguard your frequent flier or loyalty account number. Treat these numbers like you would a credit or debit card number and keep them secret. Posting a boarding pass with a frequent flier number or even recycling a hotel invoice or boarding pass which has the number printed on it, may open your account to theft. Always shred these documents and never post them on social media. 
  • Use your pointsStoring high balances of points needlessly only opens yourself up to fraud and potential theft. 

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, scammers can sometimes find ways to circumvent our safeguards. If this happens to you, contact the company that you earned the points from, and file a complaint at Fraud.org via our secure online complaint form. We share complaints with our network of nearly 200 law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners who can and do put fraudsters behind bars.