Travel American Airlines says people signed their pets up for frequent-flyer programs to try and scam big mileage bonuses from credit card offers
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- accused users of committing fraud by making multiple fake frequent-flyer accounts in order to apply for credit cards and get bonus miles.
- According to the airline, users would create multiple accounts using fake names — sometimes even pets' names — in order to generate bonus offers to open new airline credit cards.
- The airline detailed the scheme in response to a complaint that one alleged fraudster filed with the .
Would the real "Bubbles" please claim their frequent-flyer miles?
American Airlines said recently that some customers have been engaging in an "elaborate scheme involving misrepresentations to create bogus accounts in the AAdvantage Program," bilking millions of frequent-flyer miles from the airline. In other words, as first reported by, people have been using fake names to game those free-mileage offers over and over again.
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The claims came in afiled with the US Department of Transportation in response to a complaint from one of the alleged fraudsters, who said the airline had unfairly shuttered her frequent-flyer program. In the document, the airline outlined how some users allegedly found ways to apply for dozens of the airline's co-branded Citigroup credit card, earning repeated sign-up bonuses that were only intended for new users.
In response to the specific complaint, American said that the "masterminds" behind the scheme included the woman and two "co-fraudsters," her daughter and son-in-law. The three created at least 21 different frequent-flyer accounts, American said, some of which were "intentionally opened under patently false first names, including 'Bubbles.'"
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American accused the trio of using those accounts to open at least 45 co-branded credit cards within four years — and possibly as many as 54 — amassing 1.4 million miles in new-member bonuses.
The fraud involved creating fake or duplicate AAdvantage frequent-flyer accounts. The account creation could trigger an invitation to apply for a credit card using a unique code, which could bypass normal rules that made it impossible to get more than one bonus within a two-year period.
According to American, the restrictions should have remained in place for those users. Via the DOT document:
For a period of time and due to a technical issue, certain unscrupulous individuals were able to circumvent security protocols in place designed to prevent the accrual of multiple New Account Mileage Bonuses within the specified timeframe. More specifically, a small number of individuals acting in bad faith obtained invitations not intended for them – either by establishing multiple, bogus AAdvantage Accounts or getting their hands on mailers or emails addressed to third parties.
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Users discussed methods to get around the rules on frequent-flyer websites, the airline said, which prompted the airline to begin investigating the issue.
"These unscrupulous individuals repeatedly bragged, in online forums such as FlyerTalk and Reddit, of their schemes," the airline said. "Several individuals posting to these online communities would share strategies on how to 'game' the Citi application process. Some of their postings explicitly acknowledged that the schemes were in violation of the AAdvantage Terms and contained 'tips' on methods to evade detection by American and Citi."
The airline included screenshots from online forums.
"What if we have 1 or 2 accounts for our pets but only used maybe 1 mailer from each of them?" one user asked on the message board FlyerTalk.
"Once American became aware of these fraudulent activities, it conducted a review of New Account Mileage Bonuses," American added.
In the report, the airline detailed how the specific complainant was found out, referring to data it stores on virtually every interaction the users had with the airline, including website visits and clicks, recordings of phone calls, and more.
In the time since American's response to the complaint was filed, all posts on a Reddit forum dedicated to tracking the airline's response to the investigation, r/AA_shutdown, were deleted.
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