(WSVN) - We’ve all been warned about hackers worming their way into our bank accounts, but now they have a new target. 7’s Kevin Ozebek says you need to be on the lookout for “Missing Miles.”
With the holidays around the corner, travelers are looking forward to being with family and friends.
Gene Racano was planning a trip to Rhode Island for Christmas, but when he tried to book a flight with his American Airlines AAdvantage miles, he got a nasty surprise.
Gene Racano: “I was unable to get into my account. It wouldn’t accept my email, my password.”
Gene contacted American,and was told his account was frozen because of possible fraud.
Once Gene regained access, he found out that 95,000 of his frequent flyer miles had been stolen.
Gene Racano: “From looking at the account, they took a few flights, I guess a round trip from the New York area to [Los Angeles] and back.”
In just one day, the hacker booked four flights using Gene’s miles.
Kevin Ozebek: “So LAX to JFK. Not you?”
Gene Racano: “I’ve never been to L.A.”
Kevin Ozebek: “New York to LAX?”
Gene Racano: “No.”
Gene didn’t realize his miles were missing because he stopped flying when the pandemic began and was not checking his account.
Gene Racano: “It’s crazy, frequent flier miles, who would think?”
It’s a problem that has really taken off in the past year and a half, and hackers have not just targeted American’s loyalty program. It’s an issue across the travel industry.
Zach Griff: “Frequent flyer miles, hotel points, these have a intrinsic currency to them. They can unlock free stays, free travel.”
Zach Griff is with “The Points Guy,” a website filled with information on how to get the most out of frequent flyer miles.
He says hackers are cashing in on this kind of crime.
Zach Griff: “What the hackers are really interested in is the fact that they can go and drain your points and sell travel to other people kind of on the dark web, and what we’ve seen is that it’s only increased due to the pandemic.”
When Gene reported his loss to American, the airlines’s security department opened a new frequent flyer account for him.
Gene Racano: “New password, new security questions.”
But the airline would not return his missing miles since it had been almost a year since they were stolen.
Gene Racano: “This was an actual crime. This was fraud.”
American sent us a statement saying, “When fraud occurs, customers need to notify advantage within 90 days of the incident for their miles to be reinstated.”
American says it sent Gene an email and left a voice message last year when the fraud occurred.
Gene says he didn’t see or hear the messages.
Gene Racano: “If they felt it was important enough to call me, then they should have felt that was important enough to actually make contact or send written correspondence.”
So, from now on, he says he’ll be keeping a closer eye on his accounts.
Gene Racano: “It teaches me that you need to keep up on it.”
Travel experts say you should never use the same passwords for multiple frequent flyer accounts, and you should change those passwords often so you won’t find missing miles the next time you’re ready to jet off.
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