Scammers Look To Take Advantage Of Frequent Flyers Whose Accounts Are Locked

There are many American AAdvantage members whose frequent flyer accounts were locked, starting late last year. Many of those accounts were closed, with pending award travel cancelled. This was because of taking advantage of a ‘loophole’ to sign up for multiple Citibank credit cards.

  • Normally there are limits on how often you can get a single card and initial bonus on an AAdvantage Citi card.

  • However new American Airlines frequent flyer accounts were being sent a mailer with a code to apply – and the application process bypassed these normal restrictions.

  • So people were opening up new accounts, sometimes in the names of their pets, in order to generate mailer codes they could use.

Some people abused this in a big way, and even sold the miles. Others caught caught up in the dragnet who, in my view, didn’t actually do anything wrong. If they opened an account for their child (real person!) and used the code that came in the mail that specified no restrictions on who could use it I don’t think they really broke any rules. If Citi wanted to impose initial bonus restrictions on this application path, they should have done so.

Here’s an internal memo from late last year at American:

Shocking to me, in response to this, the scammers have come out to take advantage of people whose accounts were placed under review.

I’ve long loved to push the envelope of what’s possible with miles and points, though always without breaking the rules. I’m often approached about buying or selling miles and I’ve never been willing to take part in that. One scammy company approached me several years ago with the following pitch,

We deal a lot with reward points, buying and selling.

Currently working with a lot of really large companys,

Our prices are very competitive, if this interests, you, we may be able to work something out.

Now they’re back with a new approach:

Now with business slow for us all, if your interested we can open up any accounts under audit.

We take a percent of the points , we have an approx 50% success rate , you can email back if interested

They say that they can convince airlines to unlock frequent flyer accounts that have been audited for breaking the rules, and they want the owners of those accounts to break the rules again by bartering half the miles they get back. That won’t end well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How exactly will they be able to convince AA to reopen the account again? What’s the scam here exactly anyways – if my account is locked/terminated by AA, what’s the downside in me telling them “sure try to get my account back”?

  2. From what I’ve heard, the accounts are not “under review”, they are flat-out closed, “and don’t come back!” So this confuses me.

    If an account is just under review, accepting this offer seems like unnecessarily rocking the boat.

    If the account is closed, on the other hand, people might see 50% or even 10% as better than the 0% they have otherwise, with no downside.

  3. Most of those who got shut down by AA have nothing to do with mailers. They were shut down just like Chase is doing . AA shut them down because they applied for cards and got bonuses once every 6 to 12 months. AA says they have the right to cancel advantage account for any reason just like chase does for applying for cards again and again . So when you see card bonus , don’t jump right away , wait 2 years to apply for another sake card for the bonus

  4. @Gary @JonNYC

    Three questions for you gentlemen:

    1. Any updates on what’s happening with the AA shutdowns (with Corona dominating the news cycle I haven’t seen much discussion of where things currently stand here)?

    2. Do either of you know where AA is drawing the line for what’s acceptable and what’s not? I’ve seen various mentions of 3 bonuses in 24 months, 4 bonuses in 24 months, etc.

    3. Are there still new folks (i.e. they were not previously impacted) getting frozen/shutdown?

  5. How do they get anything out of a closed account with miles forfeited? Are they asking for a cash retainer?

  6. Really Gary, it’s surprising that scum will try to prey on people? These are the spiritual brethren of the scammers after natural disasters who try to get donations that would otherwise go to the victims. If they see their way to a buck, there’s nothing too low for them.
    As for them getting a share of the miles, I suspect that’s just to get their foot in the door. Where they go from there is anyone’s guess. Here are a few: Fill out this form we send as an attachment, oops ransomware! Or just give us a few details so that we can talk to AA about your case, coincidentally just enough to steal your identity. But I’m confident the scammers have more angles to transfer money from you to them.
    Stay safe.

  7. The bad grammar and spelling in these communications indicate that English is not the first language of the writer. That alone is a huge red flag.

  8. Scammers will always try to capitalize on any major event, have already received spam about a Covid-19 grant from the WHO. Pretty sure that a “release fee” will apply!

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