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

Old Jul 29, 2014, 10:15 am
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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 Feb 20, 2017, 11:24 pm
  #61  
 
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Originally Posted by Snowycali
......... I know now looking back at the emails, i was just really pissed over the inquisition that was taking place.
I've totally been there, in other circumstances. Helps to sleep on it.
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Old Feb 20, 2017, 11:29 pm
  #62  
 
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Originally Posted by Snowycali
......... I know now looking back at the emails, i was just really pissed over the inquisition that was taking place.
From their email in your OP there's likely no chance but also no harm at this point (they cant delete you twice!) in trying a hail marry by sending one more email with an apology for the tone in your original email and fully answering their questions.
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Old Feb 20, 2017, 11:33 pm
  #63  
 
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Is Sean Bentel still VP of customer relations? Still at the Sky Harbor address ro is there a PO BOX for customer relations? The seem to turn over VP's every other year. Im trying to see who i can write to. Corporate Security seems to be a black hole, no address.
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Old Feb 21, 2017, 12:06 am
  #64  
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Originally Posted by WiscAZ
Is this a joke? These responses are rude and not the least bit helpful to whoever was investigating. It's no surprise that your account was suspended. This post and the answers to their questions screams violation of policy.
Let me add evasive to rude and unhelpful.
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Old Feb 21, 2017, 12:09 am
  #65  
 
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Originally Posted by TWA884
Let me add evasive to rude and unhelpful.
Just as unhelpful as your post?

Still looking for suggestions to mail contacts.
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Old Feb 21, 2017, 12:16 am
  #66  
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Originally Posted by rjw242
Unfortunately, by taking an upgrade from someone who was selling them, you are very much involved. Demanding to speak to supervisors and coming across as combative probably didn't help. I'm not sure if you have any recourse at this point.
Originally Posted by Snowycali
Noted. Comments on my reaction when being falsely accused of fraud, rather than the inquisition thats taken place thanks to <redacted> of AA, is not helping.
You asked for help. As I read it, rjw242 was trying to help you understand what, in his/her opinion, likely happened. If may not have been what you wanted to hear, but if you're looking for sycophancy, this is likely the wrong forum for you. IMO s/he was fairly polite in the response.


Originally Posted by Snowycali
Please answer the following:
1. Who booked the reservation(s)? You know it was me.
2. How (i.e. on AA.COM and/or telephoned AA) was the reservation(s) booked? You know i booked online.
3. How do you know xxxxx? Please indicate their complete name and contact information:
• Complete Name: I already told you.
• Address: Its in Chicago, IL. I have not been to her home there, ill ask her if it matters.
• Email address: You already know this. Im CCing her in my responses to your emails.
• Telephone (home): I don’t know.
• Telephone (cell): You already know this. xxxxxxxx.
• Telephone (business): I don’t know.
• Date of Birth: You already know this. xxxxxxxth.
4. How long have you known xxxxx? I already told you.
5. What type (i.e. American Express, Mastercard, Visa, Discover, etc.) of credit card(s) was used to pay the fees associated with the ticket processing? What are the first four digits and last four digits of the credit card(s) used? This does not exist.
6. Who is the subscriber to the credit card(s) used for the payment and billing address? This does not exist.
7. What email address(es) was provided to AA so that AA could communicate the processing of the ticket(s)? You already know this. Its this email.
8. Who is the subscriber of the email address(es) provided to AA? You already know this. Its this email.
9. How did you provide payment for the ticket(s) you had issued for yourself? Gift card most likely. You already know this.
If those were your actual answers, I would probably have terminated your account, too. There's a time and place for everything, and your response to this email from AA was neither the time nor place for snarkiness. Remember, in Frequent Flyer matters, the airline usually is holding all the cards. An attitude and approach of exceedingly polite cooperation is what is called for. I don't see that in your responses as set out above.
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Old Feb 21, 2017, 2:37 am
  #67  
 
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Originally Posted by Dr. HFH
...If those were your actual answers, I would probably have terminated your account, too.

...in Frequent Flyer matters, the airline usually is holding all the cards.

...An attitude and approach of exceedingly polite cooperation is what is called for.

...I don't see that in your responses as set out above.
Spot on.

OP - While I would have been annoyed/aggravated/miffed/etc, as Dr. HFH stated, the airline is holding all the cards. (I omitted the "usually" as in this case, they are holding all the cards.) Polite (full) cooperation was your best bet. It would seem your chance to cooperate has passed.

If you have a Hail Mary, it would be to reach out to the head of security with a VERY HUMBLE and APOLOGETIC letter and carefully restate the facts with supporting documents. (Maybe even a notarized statement from your friend/gf saying you were given a gift only.) And APOLOGIZE again for your rude non compliant responses. But, given JonNYC's expertise in these areas, I would not get your hopes up.

I will say, given the history of other posters in this thread, we also need to question the accuracy of your story. Are you 100% accurate in what you have stated here? Are you sure your friend/gf said 100% you were not involved in anyway?

Assuming all is true here, it is a cautionary tale of accepting/giving SWU.
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Old Feb 21, 2017, 3:26 am
  #68  
 
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This last situation makes me a little nervous as I have called in to use SWU's for former and semi-girlfriends (but have never sold or bartered).

Obviously, the OP's tone colored AA's response. And, indeed, I'm not sure why OP would be miffed because AA security inquired. As AA flyers, we don't want people selling or bartering SWU's.

I noticed that part of OP's response was that he had used a gift card for the ticket. I wonder if that is viewed as a flag.

JON ... if OP had responded along the following lines, do you think there would have been a problem.

Mitchell

Thank you for your inquiry. Ms. XX is a personal friend of mine. We dated while we both lived in CITYX and have remained friends since she/I moved away. For example, when I was in Chicago last year, we went out to dinner at XXX and regularly exchange texts and emails. I've attached a couple of those with some info redacted. I'm also attaching an Amazon receipt from a couple of years ago, when we ordered some items for her home. You can see her name on the shipping receipt. When Ms. XXX learned that I was traveling to Hong Kong, she graciously offered to gift me one of her SWU's. There was no barter or exchange involved with this gift. Ms. XXX has informed me that AA security has contacted her regarding the alleged sale of SWUs to someone else. I was unaware of this issue and can state I was not involved, have no knowledge, and did not purchase or barter for these SWU's.

In terms of your specific questions, I am providing the following information:

...


OP ... I know people are making comments about what appears to many of us to be an aggressive response in what you are describing as an innocent situation. I also know that you are looking for help ... I'm sorry that I don't have any ideas other than the hail Mary approach others have suggested. Still, part of this thread is to help others so I'd be curious on Jon's insight into a situation where an innocent party is inadvertently involved with someone who has sold SWU's. I don't deem someone who bought upgrades through a broker as innocent by the way
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Old Feb 21, 2017, 6:00 am
  #69  
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Originally Posted by ryan182
From their email in your OP there's likely no chance but also no harm at this point (they cant delete you twice!) in trying a hail marry by sending one more email with an apology for the tone in your original email and fully answering their questions.
Originally Posted by Global321
Spot on.

OP - While I would have been annoyed/aggravated/miffed/etc, as Dr. HFH stated, the airline is holding all the cards. (I omitted the "usually" as in this case, they are holding all the cards.) Polite (full) cooperation was your best bet. It would seem your chance to cooperate has passed.

If you have a Hail Mary, it would be to reach out to the head of security with a VERY HUMBLE and APOLOGETIC letter and carefully restate the facts with supporting documents. (Maybe even a notarized statement from your friend/gf saying you were given a gift only.) And APOLOGIZE again for your rude non compliant responses. But, given JonNYC's expertise in these areas, I would not get your hopes up.
I'd agree with both above (and one or two others, I believe,) A FULL and contrite confession, w/ promise to never do it again, etc-- MINUS all the attitude-- couldn't hurt. (I'm a little unclear as to if the account(s) have been terminated yet-- or rather just locked.) Might not help, but the "writing the [big names at AA] thing is beyond a waste of time, to a degree hard to even verbalize.


Originally Posted by C17PSGR
This last situation makes me a little nervous as I have called in to use SWU's for former and semi-girlfriends
Originally Posted by Global321
...
Assuming all is true here, it is a cautionary tale of accepting/giving SWU.
Let's not even worry about that, no cautionary tale here IMO except be completely truthful and respectful if you ever find yourself in this position (and you won't.)
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Old Feb 21, 2017, 7:11 am
  #70  
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Data point: I had a little more than half a a dozen SWUs that I was going to be unable to use by expiration in early 2017, so I started giving them to my cousin and his spouse late in 2016. My cousin's surname is different from mine, and his spouse has a third surname. They live in a different country. They probably ended up being able to use four or five between them (they both travel for business), I didn't keep count. Not a peep from AA security.
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Old Feb 21, 2017, 7:42 am
  #71  
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Originally Posted by JonNYC
Let's not even worry about that, no cautionary tale here IMO except be completely truthful and respectful if you ever find yourself in this position (and you won't.)
Its a bit of a shame that the latest poster did not find (and read the 2000+ posts in ) this thread earlier. I'm assuming it's a new poster but can't see that on the mobile site.
Lots of warnings to be forthcoming and truthful. Maybe no explicit warnings not to be a jerk to AA, but it should have been pretty obvious.
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Old Feb 21, 2017, 8:13 am
  #72  
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The "OP" for this tale joined FT about a year ago and has less than a dozen posts including the ones in this thread.

ADDED: I see one post from last month, in an existing thread in the AA forum. Nine in this thread so far, although the OP started a new thread that was merged into this one.
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Old Feb 21, 2017, 10:58 am
  #73  
 
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My best guess is that there is an assumption that anyone who sells an SWU once will do so again. The other sales could be documented, by canceled checks, paypal, website tracking, etc.

The transaction in question could not be documented as a sale, due to the fact there were no canceled checks, no paypal, nothing. The fact the sale is non-traceable (ie cash) does not mean it did not exist. Similarly it cannot be factually documented as a gift.

The onus is on the OP to prove there was no sale. Proving a negative is difficult. Anyone can produce text messages, emails, etc, that indicate it was a pure gift, even if cash did change hands in a verbal agreement.

In my opinion, the OP's account is gone for good. The snarky answers to the airline's inquiry probably sealed the deal. Had I been an account analyst and had I read that answer, I would have hit the "Delete Account" key in a New York minute.

Incidentally, there is a valid reason to ask the same questions multiple times. See if the perp gives the same answers multiple times, or if the story changes. Cops do that all the time. SOP.
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Old Feb 21, 2017, 11:52 am
  #74  
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Originally Posted by QueenOfCoach
Incidentally, there is a valid reason to ask the same questions multiple times. See if the perp gives the same answers multiple times, or if the story changes. Cops do that all the time. SOP.
At least in a courtroom, one can always say "asked and answered."
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Old Feb 21, 2017, 12:03 pm
  #75  
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Originally Posted by Dr. HFH
Data point: I had a little more than half a a dozen SWUs that I was going to be unable to use by expiration in early 2017, so I started giving them to my cousin and his spouse late in 2016. My cousin's surname is different from mine, and his spouse has a third surname. They live in a different country. They probably ended up being able to use four or five between them (they both travel for business), I didn't keep count. Not a peep from AA security.
Ive given and received probably 10 SWUs over the last 5 years. Given to friends and cousins (with totally different last names). Received from cousins as well as some generous FT members here.

Just another data point
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