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Cyber Criminals Target Rewards, Frequent Flyer Miles

By Kate Merrill, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Kate Merrill Kate Merrill
Kate Merrill is an Emmy award winning journalist for WBZ-TV News. She...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Travel miles and rewards are the latest target for cyber criminals. Unsuspecting consumers are losing thousands of dollars to deceptive schemes.

Michael and Katherine Hynes work long hours in the family auto repair business, so they were looking forward to a trip to Las Vegas. When they went to cash in their travel reward points, they were shocked to find someone had beaten them to it.

“They disappeared,” explained Katherine. “Our credit card wasn’t stolen. There were no charges on it, but our mileage points disappeared. We were supposed to have 174,000 and we only had a little over 12,000. “

They don’t know how they got ripped off. The Hynes just know some stranger had a pretty good time in Singapore at their expense.

Tim Armstrong, a malware expert at Kaspersky Lab in Woburn, said these cyber criminals “use schemes to collect people’s miles and buy tickets and resell those tickets to third parties and they will collect money that way. Some of the other things we have seen are just they will infect the computer with malware and just steal money out of people’s accounts directly.”

In one scenario, millions of travel alerts are sent via email. They have a fake confirmation code and a fake flight number.

They only need one response to cash in quickly. Armstrong explained, “It’s really a luck scenario where you will be happening to travel on this scenario and they will happen to catch you at the right time, or it’s an opportunity scenario where people will just be curious and think, ‘I don’t have a flight, I want to make sure I am not charged for this’.”

Another scam started in South America. It promises prizes and extra miles if you log into their website. Once the crooks have that information, they can redeem the miles on their own.

After making call after call, the Hynes’ finally got their miles restored. Their flights are now booked, but they are still mad. “I felt violated,” said Michael.

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