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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 AAs eyes, such as fictitious or fraudulent bookings to try to block seats to increase ones 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, Im 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, its 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..

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

Old Oct 19, 2019, 8:31 am
  #901  
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Got a pair of PMs this morning, wonder if we'll see a bit of an uptick
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Old Oct 19, 2019, 10:20 am
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Originally Posted by JonNYC
Got a pair of PMs this morning, wonder if we'll see a bit of an uptick
Related to the backlog of legitimate problems with password-related compromises or the more nefarious side of this thread?
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Old Oct 19, 2019, 2:11 pm
  #903  
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Originally Posted by enpremiere
Related to the backlog of legitimate problems with password-related compromises or the more nefarious side of this thread?
The actual topic of this thread, caught selling.
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Old Oct 19, 2019, 2:14 pm
  #904  
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Here we go again. Can't people learn not to try that?
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Old Oct 19, 2019, 7:42 pm
  #905  
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist
Here we go again. Can't people learn not to try that?
Personally speaking, I don't think it's realistic to expect that there will ever be a time were this is something we don't hear much about any more.
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Old Oct 19, 2019, 8:20 pm
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Originally Posted by JonNYC
Personally speaking, I don't think it's realistic to expect that there will ever be a time were this is something we don't hear much about any more.
I agree. Do you think it is mostly out of ignorance - people not knowing the rules and thinking it's a good idea?
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Old Oct 19, 2019, 9:00 pm
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Originally Posted by robertablake
I agree. Do you think it is mostly out of ignorance - people not knowing the rules and thinking it's a good idea?
I think it has a lot to do with it. Everything is some sort of a currency now in peoples minds. It's just that miles are a currency for the airlines but not for the people who earned them(they think they can sell them). More ignorance than anything from not reading the FINE PRINT.
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Old Oct 20, 2019, 5:59 am
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Somewhere out there in the bowels of the ether Pond Walden doesnt sleep...
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Old Oct 20, 2019, 7:05 am
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Originally Posted by robertablake
I agree. Do you think it is mostly out of ignorance - people not knowing the rules and thinking it's a good idea?
There's definitely a mix of those who think they are smarter than the system, those who haven't the slightest idea it's against the rules (a tiny minority,) those who think the rules are "very seldom actually enforced" (and/or think if it's "done a certain way, you won't get caught") and those who get misled into a combination of these things by brokers.
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Old Apr 19, 2020, 6:27 pm
  #910  
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A friend who is likely considered a high-revenue passenger let me know today that his account, which has 1 million+ miles, was locked. He tells me:
  • (Edits: List of things he did and didn't do, none of which raised red flags based on my prior reading of this thread.)
I've read this thread for ages, so my guidance for him was:
  • Do not expect to speak with a human. All conversations will be via email/mail.
  • He will not recover his miles/regain access to his account unless his is forthright and contrite about what he did that may have run afoul of rules.
  • He should expect to pay a financial penalty equivalent to some portion of AA's estimated losses.
  • He should be prepared to offer proof that his tickets and SWUs were given to people with whom he has long-standing relationships and no money changed hands.
  • He should not attempt to impress investigators with his professional credentials (which carry some weight in the travel industry)
I can't recall hearing about people who have had their accounts locked for back-to-back ticketing and throw-away returns, but given the current economy, I wouldn't be surprised if AA's security team was going to greater lengths to claw back money from passengers who bent the rules. Anyone have ideas for other activity that could trigger an account lock, or other suggestions on how he can increase the likelihood of regaining access to his account?
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Last edited by chgoeditor; Apr 21, 2020 at 11:53 am
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Old Apr 19, 2020, 7:59 pm
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Originally Posted by chgoeditor
(snip).
Anyone have ideas for other activity that could trigger an account lock, or other suggestions on how he can increase the likelihood of regaining access to his account?
Your advice was good. He is certainly out of norm of accounts being blocked, assuming there is nothing else to the story. (There is almost always more to the story. ) Hopefully following your advice he will get it all straightened out.

If he is willing, I would have him reach out to JonNYC, who has been known to help folks in a similar situation as this.
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Old Apr 19, 2020, 8:27 pm
  #912  
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Originally Posted by Global321
Your advice was good. He is certainly out of norm of accounts being blocked, assuming there is nothing else to the story. (There is almost always more to the story. ) Hopefully following your advice he will get it all straightened out.

If he is willing, I would have him reach out to JonNYC, who has been known to help folks in a similar situation as this.
Given the environment, it seems like a crazy move...if throwaways/nested tickets are the new target of AA security, it seems as if they'd target someone who isn't frequently flying paid international first class. But who knows. All I can relay in terms of what he did is what my friend told me, and he's a pretty straight shooter. But I did stress -- don't hold anything back, even if you don't think it's pertinent, because they already know what you did.
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Old Apr 19, 2020, 8:57 pm
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Originally Posted by chgoeditor
I've read this thread for ages, so my guidance for him was
I think you did an excellent job in terms of reading the thread and giving advice. And Global321 was wise to recommending contacting JonNYC. I don't know if JonNYC is currently checking FT messages, but if you wanted more advice, you could certainly reach out to him via his Twitter account.
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Old Apr 19, 2020, 9:20 pm
  #914  
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I’d be getting him to look at his bookings and travel patterns to see if there is anything he thinks might have aroused interest by AA.

Over what period and how many flights were back to backs involved? Is there a good reason for booking such flights?

ditto with skipping the last legs.How often and why.

. Did any of the people he used his miles or upgrades for do the same?

Remember they are looking for patterns of behaviour over a period of time.

above all he needs to deal with any emails from AA quickly and answer questions concisely and accurately, Any obfuscation will go against him. If he can’t answer within their timescales then he should tell them why and give a date he can not just ignore it.
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Old Apr 19, 2020, 10:19 pm
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......

Last edited by SeeBuyFly; Apr 20, 2020 at 5:55 pm
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