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How to Protect Your Own – NBC 6 South Florida

With the summer travel season in full swing, criminals are finding ways to take advantage of those looking to escape. Thieves are after your frequent flyer miles.

“It gives you that feeling of vulnerability, just because we’re in the age of technology,” said Joey Sciarrotta, a Davie resident.

Sciarrotta has been saving her American Airlines miles for years for a special post-COVID-19 trip to the British Isles with her family.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is issuing a warning after investigators have received multiple reports of criminals illegally redeeming airline frequent flyer miles and credits.

However, last week you noticed some unusual email activity.

“I got an email from American Airlines that said, ‘Attention, your email address has been updated,'” Sciarrotta said.

However, the email was buried under what appeared to be dozens of other spam emails in his regular inbox. Fortunately, she noticed the email and decided to investigate.

He logged into his American Advantage account and discovered that 120,000 of his airline miles had been lost. That’s a value of over $3,500.

“That’s when I called American Airlines right away,” Sciarrotta said.

Someone you don’t know used your miles to book a flight for a trip you certainly didn’t plan on taking.

“The ticket was from Dubai to a city in Nigeria,” Sciarrotta said. “I’m like, no, I don’t know anyone in Dubai or Nigeria and I don’t know that passenger.”

Sciarrotta reached out to NBC6 after seeing our story from last week about the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office issuing a warning about this exact crime.

The department posted on Facebook that investigators have received multiple reports of criminals illegally redeeming airline frequent flyer miles or credits from individuals.

“The most important thing when you think about your airline’s frequent flyer miles is to recognize that they are valuable currency,” said Zach Griff, senior aviation writer for The Points Guy.

He says to protect your loyalty account information the same way you would protect a bank account: use strong passwords and two-factor authentication if offered.

Griff says it’s also important to monitor your accounts regularly.

“If there are fraudulent charges, chances are you’ll be more successful in reversing them the sooner you catch them,” Griff said.

Sciarrotta says American plans to refund his miles since he filed a police report with the Davie Police Department.

“Look out for those nonsense emails because I think they are trying to confuse us,” he advised.

He thinks that maybe this is how the criminals are trying to buy time to catch the flights before they get caught.

“American Airlines has been in correspondence with the client. We ask that you allow 30 days for a solution once a police report has been submitted,” a spokesperson said.

On its website, American Airlines says it will never ask you to make security-related changes or collect personal or financial information in unsolicited emails or phone calls.

If you suspect suspicious activity, the company says to email them right away. Do not click on links or attachments.