Travel Tip: How Hackers are Targeting Frequent Flier Miles
You’ve worked hard to earn your frequent flier miles, logging all those flights and using your airline credit card whenever you can. And you probably think your miles and points are safe and secure, just waiting for you to redeem them.
Except your miles might be the target of hackers who have figured out how to crack your account, and are plundering it, selling those points for cash or tickets. Now that most airlines no longer send out monthly statements that keep travelers updated on their balances, hackers have begun taking advantage of the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality to do their worst.
But you can protect yourself from these hackers if you just take a few security steps.
First, you need to protect your airline account. Fortunately, most airlines quit using the 4-digit PIN code they had used for years, and replaced it with full password protection. But that doesn’t help you if you’re still using your dog’s name as the password. Pick a complex password that’s hard to remember or even figure out, the more complex, the better.
Rather than try to remember the password or write it down, use a password management app like 1Password or LastPass to keep track of it. Better yet, let the app generate a complex password. You can choose a random scattering of letters, numbers, and special characters, or a string of unrelated words, and store them in the app. Security experts estimate that passwords like this can take centuries to break.
Also, make sure you’re not using your same password on several different accounts. According to tech writer Kim Komando, hackers were recently able to break into 10,000 accounts on one airline by stealing customers’ login credentials from other sites. In other words, the customers were using the same passwords on more than one website. Again, a password app will let you generate countless passwords without having to remember them all.
Watching out for phishing scams, fake emails that pretend to be from your airline or hotel chain. These scams will promise prizes or more points in your frequent flyer/traveler account. Clicking on a link in the email will take you to a fake website where you enter your login credentials, thus giving them away. Even the world’s greatest password won’t do anything if you give it to thieves. If you’re not sure about an email’s validity, go to your web browser and type in the airline’s URL directly.
Finally, another way to prevent theft is to simply monitor your account. Create a monthly reminder to check your points balance on their website. If the airline has one, sign up for their newsletter, which often contains a monthly points summary. And contact the airline immediately if you discover a discrepancy or a sudden loss of points.
Photo credit: Mattes (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)