Frequent flyer programs face significant fraud. A hacker takes control of an account, redeems all the points for gift cards, and uses the gift cards for merchandise before the account owner notices the points missing. By the time the theft is reported, someone has a ton of new iPads… that they’ve already liquidated for cash.
Or they’ll book travel. But the travel needs to be close-in, or else the passenger might get caught before boarding their flight. Compromise an account, travel right away, when it’s too late for the airline to do much to recoup the loss. And frequent flyer programs generally make their members whole when their accounts are drained.
That’s why we get increased account security. Hilton makes you clear captcha to log into your account, this reduces the ability for bots to brute force attack accounts and determine their passwords. United has a series of (often silly) security questions.
Still, miles are regularly for sale on the dark web.
Much of the fraud originates in China and in Africa. And apparently also in Russia, if a change to Delta’s terms and conditions is an indication.
Award Travel Ticketing Restrictions
Award Tickets purchased for travel within or originating in China, Russia, and any country in Africa require a 72-hour advance purchase. Members desiring travel within or originating in these markets within 72 hours must go to the airport to purchase their ticket, including reissues. No Exceptions . The advanced purchase applies to all Award bookings in the affected markets.
If you want to book award travel that begins in China, Russia, or Africa any booking within 72 hours of travel must be made in person at the airport with no exceptions.
On the one hand, loyalty programs need to address fraud without inconveniencing their members.
On the other hand, Delta’s approach is less stringent than some programs, for instance in the past Air France KLM Flying Blue would want to require airport ticketing for any award (not just last minute awards) originating in Africa.
And IHG Rewards Club doesn’t permit gifted awards in China made within a week of check-in and varying personal information about the guest is required in advance..
Ultimately fighting fraud is important for the sustainability of a program. But SkyMiles has hardly been sustained as it is, and members need to be on notice that this program is really not good for last minute travel originating in large swaths of the world.