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Account audit / blocked / fraud: award / miles / SWU / sale, barter, etc.

Old Jul 29, 2014, 10:15 am
FlyerTalk Forums Expert How-Tos and Guides
Last edit by: Prospero
This thread is dedicated to issues around American Airlines Corporate Security, AAdvantage Fraud division (AKA "Revenue Protection Unit"), and its enforcement of the AAdvantage Terms and Conditions - particularly to selling, buying and bartering awards, miles, upgrades and other instruments - and related issues.

It is okay at this time to gift awards, upgrades, etc. as long as there is absolutely no quid pro quo (no buying or selling or offer to do so, no barter or trade "you give me one now I'll give it back" or anything smacking of prohibited activity. AA is probably the strictest of the US airlines about this. They have a very active and expert AAdvantage Fraud division of the AA Corporate Fraud department, and they can both be aggressive and, some might say merciless - clawing back one's miles and instruments, even closing one's account and terminating status and ability to participate in the AAdvantage program n the future.

There are other ways to commit fraud in AA’s eyes, such as fictitious or fraudulent bookings to try to block seats to increase one’s chances if upgrades, generating tickets to access airside facilities (e.g. lounges) when there is no intent to fly, etc.

To read an example of how the US Department of Transportation has rules on punitive actions by AA, read Joel Hayes vs. American Airlines here (PDF).

Please read on for information and the consensus of knowledgeable members.

E.g. AAdvantage Terms and Conditions excerpt: "At no time may AAdvantage mileage credit or award tickets be purchased, sold, advertised for sale or bartered (including but not limited to transferring, gifting, or promising mileage credit or award tickets in exchange for support of a certain business, product or charity and/or participation in an auction, sweepstakes, raffle or contest). Any such mileage or tickets are void if transferred for cash or other consideration. Violators (including any passenger who uses a purchased or bartered award ticket) may be liable for damages and litigation costs, including American Airlines attorneys’ fees incurred in enforcing this rule." (This extends to other AA instruments such as Systemwide Upgrades, etc., selling of extra AirPass seats or baggage allowance, etc.)
Also see AAdvantage Program Terms and Conditions and

American Airlines Conditions of Carriage.

Originally Posted by SS255
<snip>"While you may consider the AAdvantage Miles in your account to be *your* property, they are actually the property of AA, and AA permits you to redeem them within the program rules set by AA. If AA detects any impropriety (real or perceived) in the use of AAdvantage miles, they reserve the right to confiscate the miles and/or close/delete the account."...
The typical email from AA Corporate Security can not be addressed by calling AAdvantage Customer Service or other methods - you must reply to the email address given. It likely will look like this:

My name is Fname Lname, and I am an analyst with American Airlines. One of my responsibilities is investigating possible instances of fraud, misrepresentation, and violations of the General AAdvantage Program Conditions. Today, I’m writing you about your AAdvantage account # XXXXXXXX

We have reason to believe that the transactions listed below violate one or more of the AAdvantage program conditions. This includes, but is not limited to, prohibition of purchase, sale, or barter of mileage credit and or award tickets. As a result, American Airlines has suspended your AAdvantage membership privileges and use of AA.com® in conjunction with your account – and may terminate your account as a result of our findings. We are in the process of completing the investigation into this matter, and I would like to hear the events as they occurred from your perspective. Please respond to this message by <date> with complete and accurate information regarding the activities listed below:

<specific activity /activities in question>

Required Information:·
  • Passenger name·
    • Origin and destination cities on the travel itinerary·
      • Purchaser name (individual, company and/or website), including:·
        • Copy of any advertisements to which you responded offering to purchase/broker the use of your AAdvantage miles·
          • Purchaser contact information, such as:·
            • Mailing address·
              • Email address·
                • Telephone number·
                  • Website profile name·
                    • Your statement fully disclosing the details surrounding the sale/barter transaction referenced above·
                      • Copy of all communication between yourself and the purchaser·
                        • Documentation that you received payment


To protect and retain the integrity of the AAdvantage program, it is vital that firm action be taken as a result of any violation of the AAdvantage Program Conditions, whether intentional or not. Failure to respond completely and accurately by <insert date>, will result in the termination of your AAdvantage membership and all its benefits, including all remaining AAdvantage miles in your account and any award tickets issued from it. Please, understand that our overall motivation is to preserve the benefits of the AAdvantage program, rather than to take punitive action against individuals. To that end, it’s not unusual for us to release the AAdvantage account suspension once we receive all the detail we request and reconcile it with the results of our investigation. We hope to hear from you soon.

Regards,

Fname Lname, etc.
Excellent summaries of information (based on the sum of experiences we have seen in this thread over time) of how to respond:

Blogger Gary Leff: "If you made that mistake and got caught, American usually will go light on first-time offenders provided that they ‘come clean’ and are forthcoming about whom a systemwide was sold to or purchased from and what the terms were. They are most interested in serial brokers and are willing to ‘plea bargain’ with minor offenders to get the Evip-lords. There may be a consequence but it should fall short of account shutdown and forfeiture of miles." Link
Originally Posted by sbrower
I am going to try and provide a summary of the advice. For the record, this is 90% from Jon (JonNYC) and a little bit from other comments and circumstances, I am just trying to provide an easy summary, without all the explanations and reasons. I am happy to have others update/correct.

1. Respond to the questions in the email which you received. Don't try to call or email that person, or anyone else, at AA or DOT or whatever. Just answer the email.

2. Answer every question, in detail, with the facts. Don't use sarcasm or "you should know" or anything else that sounds like to you are avoiding the exact question being asked.

3. Assume that they know more about the true facts than you do. It might not always be true, but in most cases they have way more information than you might assume. So go back to #2, above.

4. If you did ANYTHING that was wrong (not under your interpretation of what you think the rules should be, but based on what the rules actually say) then, if you want to continue to participate in the AAdvantage program, tell them about your error and tell them that you are prepared to pay a correct penalty for your mistake (miles/status/etc) and then go back to #2, above.
From JonNYC, our resident expert on this:

Originally Posted by JonNYC
Perfect and 100%.
<snip>

The analysts that do this for a living have the same reactions that any humans do to being lied to and/or condescended to. Therefore, as well as being 100% truthful, go out of your way NOT to be:

-condescending
-brusque
-sharp, terse and/or sounding like you're being inconvenienced
-insulting
-just generally slippery, aloof, evasive and unforthcoming. As mentioned; they know more than you think they do. Always.

DO be apologetic, contrite and extremely cooperative.

Finally, any version of "...in which case, I'll be emailing [insert name or department here] to tell them how I, a [insert years flying AA, status, MMer, $$ spent, etc] customer is being treated" and/or mention of your lawyer, DOT, Chris Elliot (), this forum, any blogger, etc. DO NOT DO THIS.
Older posts have been archived to the
archived thread.

A number of posts regarding AA's confiscation of 60,000 miles from "Mr. Hayes" for allegedly making "fictitious" bookings in search of whether his upgrade would be likely to progress or not, AA IT issues that might have led to this (or not), AA's replies and the USDOT complaint have been moved to a new thread: Hayes, USDOT and AA: "fictitious bookings" and checking upgrades.

NOTE: Posts about members experiencing account security breaches, fraud, theft of awards and instruments have moved to Account fraud / breach: my account compromised, awards stolen, etc..

Print Wikipost

Account audit / blocked / fraud: award / miles / SWU / sale, barter, etc.

Old Jan 4, 2017, 5:28 pm
  #16  
 
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Originally Posted by JDiver
You should be fine.

Over the years I've given a number of AA award trips to others and have had absolutely no problems; I've only rarely been a companion flying with the person using an award (sometimes paying for my ticket, sometimes using an award).
I've had the same experience. Plus, if AA security was to raise the issue, I'm sure you'd be in a position to demonstrate that it was a personal relationship that significantly predates using your miles for her.
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Old Jan 5, 2017, 8:27 am
  #17  
 
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I will keep an eye on my AA reservation as well as my AS reservation and I can easily prove the friendship as it is over many many years and more over I am traveling with her so that should make it even easier to prove.

Again, thanks for all of the advice and input, I do greatly appreciate it.
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Old Jan 5, 2017, 11:00 am
  #18  
 
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Originally Posted by JonNYC
Caution always good, but I'd say zero chance of this in this case.
I think this illustrates that reading too many horror stories on FT can itself be dangerous, much as reading too many accounts of obscure diseases might make you think you've got them! (An analogy that I thought kmersh might appreciate.)
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Old Jan 5, 2017, 7:26 pm
  #19  
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Horror stories? On FlyerTalk?!? No way!
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Old Jan 5, 2017, 7:51 pm
  #20  
 
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Originally Posted by ijgordon
Horror stories? On FlyerTalk?!? No way!
The thing about those "AA locked my account and I did nothing wrong!!" horror stories is they were almost always 50% fiction.
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Old Jan 6, 2017, 3:54 am
  #21  
 
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Originally Posted by rjw242
The thing about those "AA locked my account and I did nothing wrong!!" horror stories is they were almost always 50% fiction.
Yep. In my 8 years on FlyerTalk, I've seen at most 2 cases where AA got a false positive on someone. (And I suspect in both of those cases we still didn't get the full story.)

The only thing kmersh needs to worry about is making sure that initially the trip gets ticketed and staying updated on any schedule changes. Enjoy the trip! ^
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Old Jan 6, 2017, 7:46 am
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Majuki
Yep. In my 8 years on FlyerTalk, I've seen at most 2 cases where AA got a false positive on someone. (And I suspect in both of those cases we still didn't get the full story.)

The only thing kmersh needs to worry about is making sure that initially the trip gets ticketed and staying updated on any schedule changes. Enjoy the trip! ^
Agree (some other figure in the single-digit range, but still agree 100%.)
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Old Jan 6, 2017, 7:58 am
  #23  
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Yes of course! But the "JL changed my award flight time and now I don't have a valid connection and AA isn't being helpful" and the "AA downgraded my F award to J because of equip change and is only offering me a BA flight with a $1000 surcharge" horror stories are much more real...
Originally Posted by rjw242
The thing about those "AA locked my account and I did nothing wrong!!" horror stories is they were almost always 50% fiction.
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Old Jan 6, 2017, 2:15 pm
  #24  
 
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Originally Posted by anabolism
I think this illustrates that reading too many horror stories on FT can itself be dangerous, much as reading too many accounts of obscure diseases might make you think you've got them! (An analogy that I thought kmersh might appreciate.)
Part of my initial worry was just that, reading horror stories here on Flyertalk about AA locking accounts and the like and saying to myself, well even if the stories dealt with customers actually breaking the rules, my situation while completely innocent could be misconstrued as breaking the rules, as AA would not know that I am also booking myself on the same flights just using a different airline's currency.

Though it dawned on me today that if AA or AS were to inquire I could provide them the Cathay Record Locator for myself.

However, booking the tickets as 2 one-way tickets does prevent some of the murkiness (if not all of it) and as anabolism points out I did what some of my patients do, I did too much reading about obscure situations and let my mind run wild.

Thank you all again for your insight, I never cease to be amazed at your depth of knowledge, understanding of how the airlines function and your willingness to assist others.
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Old Jan 7, 2017, 5:09 pm
  #25  
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Originally Posted by kmersh
Part of my initial worry was just that, reading horror stories here on Flyertalk about AA locking accounts and the like and saying to myself, well even if the stories dealt with customers actually breaking the rules, my situation while completely innocent could be misconstrued as breaking the rules, as AA would not know that I am also booking myself on the same flights just using a different airline's currency.

Though it dawned on me today that if AA or AS were to inquire I could provide them the Cathay Record Locator for myself.

However, booking the tickets as 2 one-way tickets does prevent some of the murkiness (if not all of it) and as anabolism points out I did what some of my patients do, I did too much reading about obscure situations and let my mind run wild.

Thank you all again for your insight, I never cease to be amazed at your depth of knowledge, understanding of how the airlines function and your willingness to assist others.
You don't even need to be doing anything "questionable". If some AAuditor gets a wild hair and pick your account by mistake you can still have travel issues. Don't over think this whole thing, just keep an eye on what's in the system.
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Old Jan 7, 2017, 7:31 pm
  #26  
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Originally Posted by kmersh
Part of my initial worry was just that, reading horror stories here on Flyertalk about AA locking accounts and the like and saying to myself, well even if the stories dealt with customers actually breaking the rules, my situation while completely innocent could be misconstrued as breaking the rules, as AA would not know that I am also booking myself on the same flights just using a different airline's currency.

Though it dawned on me today that if AA or AS were to inquire I could provide them the Cathay Record Locator for myself.

However, booking the tickets as 2 one-way tickets does prevent some of the murkiness (if not all of it) and as anabolism points out I did what some of my patients do, I did too much reading about obscure situations and let my mind run wild.

Thank you all again for your insight, I never cease to be amazed at your depth of knowledge, understanding of how the airlines function and your willingness to assist others.
It's very rare AA Coroorate Security - AAdvantage Fraud get it wrong, from my personal experience in giving others awards (even while I was in SMF and they were in Connecticut, Florida, New York, Texas, Mexico, Cambodia, Australia, etc.) and my experience here moderating these fraud etc. threads, even though AA is arguably the most aggressive in chasing down those who sell, etc. And one is not likely to be traveling with one who purchased an award from your account from a broker, etc.

In fact, I disclose to the agent in a matter of fact casual narrative my relationship to the traveler(s). If I'm ever contacted and asked about the award user, or they are about me, there's not a problem (whereas selling an award there's usually a lot of unfillable blanks and a lack of information in most, albeit not all, cases).
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Old Jan 7, 2017, 11:46 pm
  #27  
 
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Originally Posted by JDiver
It's very rare AA Coroorate Security - AAdvantage Fraud get it wrong, from my personal experience in giving others awards (even while I was in SMF and they were in Connecticut, Florida, New York, Texas, Mexico, Cambodia, Australia, etc.) and my experience here moderating these fraud etc. threads, even though AA is arguably the most aggressive in chasing down those who sell, etc. And one is not likely to be traveling with one who purchased an award from your account from a broker, etc.

In fact, I disclose to the agent in a matter of fact casual narrative my relationship to the traveler(s). If I'm ever contacted and asked about the award user, or they are about me, there's not a problem (whereas selling an award there's usually a lot of unfillable blanks and a lack of information in most, albeit not all, cases).
This. I've collected over 1mil+ RDMs in the last 3 years and have spent 600k+ on people not named ME and AA has never questioned me once. AA has a unique way of telling if you're actually selling your miles/upgrades (no idea how).
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Old Feb 13, 2017, 3:45 pm
  #28  
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This is a busy season for those selling their SWUs, for obvious reasons. What's not quite as obvious is people are getting busted left and right. Stay safe people!
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Old Feb 13, 2017, 3:52 pm
  #29  
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Originally Posted by JonNYC
This is a busy season for those selling their SWUs, for obvious reasons. What's not quite as obvious is people are getting busted left and right. Stay safe people!
I doubt anyone is really that stupid. They know it is against the program rules. This is probably just the result of AA corporate not recognizing legitimate exchange of money for empty white envelopes.
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Old Feb 13, 2017, 3:56 pm
  #30  
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Originally Posted by sbrower
I doubt anyone is really that stupid. They know it is against the program rules. This is probably just the result of AA corporate not recognizing legitimate exchange of money for empty white envelopes.
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