Everyone with an email address is familiar with “phishing” emails – messages from people asking for help or alerting you to danger. From alleged African princes who want to deposit money in your bank account and then give you a percentage, to good Samaritans supposedly alerting you to the fact that your account has been compromised and you need to change your passwords, most people know to send these emails straight to the trash folder.
However, there’s a new phishing scheme that’s becoming increasingly popular and is taking in even savvy email users who know enough not to respond to Nigerian royalty.
Phishing for Miles
Delta Airlines recently issued an alert to their SkyMiles customers, reading in part, “We have recently received reports from customers of fraudulent emails claiming to be from Delta Air Lines. These emails claim that you have purchased a Delta ticket, a credit card has been charged and/or an invoice or receipt is attached to the email.”
What’s going on? Simple – the latest scheme to steal your information is targeting members of frequent flyer programs, in order to do two things:
- Get you to open an attachment that will install malware on your computer, which can record keystrokes and steal passwords, leading thieves to your bank and credit card accounts.
- Get you to send them your frequent flyer account information directly, so they can use your miles to travel the world – or more likely, sell them to someone else who will take a trip courtesy of your miles.
Delta isn’t the only airline raising the red flag to try to protect its customers – US Airways also put up a message on their site advising customers, “we would never ask you to perform security-related changes to your account or send you an email asking about your user name, password or other personal information. If you receive a suspicious email, do not click on any links or open any attachments. Just delete it.”
Miles as Good as Cash
Many people may not realize that their frequent flyer miles can be used like cash, and anyone with their username and password can drain those miles right out of their loyalty account, just as they could from a bank account.
- To protect your frequent flyer account, Delta and Us Airways gave a few of the following tips:
- Change your account numbers, passwords, and PINs
- Keep a close eye on your account and monitor all activity
- Never click on links in emails or open attachments
- Delete suspicious emails from your inbox
Both Delta and US Airways want customers to know that they never send emails asking them to make changes to their accounts or asking for usernames, passwords, or other personal data. Things to watch for in emails, that usually indicate they are fraudulent, include these tip-offs:
- Claims that they are offering free airline tickets
- Requests for account information
- Bad grammar, typos, and misspelled words
- URLs that point to unfamiliar web addresses when you scroll over the links
Don’t Lose That Credit Card Sign-On Bonus
Many people sign up for a credit card like the Gold Delta SkyMiles card from American Express or the Virgin America Visa Signature Card for the sign-on bonuses (the Gold Delta card currently offers 30,000 bonus miles for new customers and the Virgin America card offers 25,000 airline travel points). It would be a shame to lose those sign-on bonuses to a phishing scheme, so people should be on the lookout and stay alert to suspicious emails if they want to keep those miles safe.