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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 Jun 13, 2023, 8:46 pm
  #961  
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Baltimore/Washington, USA
Programs: AA LT Platinum, Hilton LT Diamond, Marriott Titanium
Posts: 3,077
Originally Posted by LowValueCustomer
Not that it makes any practical difference, but as a cybersecurity professional myself, I have to reiterate my strong objection to using something like an FFN as a security credential. If the concern is a similar password, that suggests that AA needs better prior password restrictions. But blindly relying on a non-private data element like an FFN to do your security hygiene for you by random chance strikes me personally as supremely ill-advised.
​​
Agreed. They need 2FA
chix is offline  
Old Feb 15, 2024, 8:59 am
  #962  
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 151
Unhappy help! AA account locked

In October 2023 I found out that my account had become locked. I received the below email.

"Please contact AAdvantage Customer Service regarding the unauthorized access to your AAdvantage account. American Airlines takes claims of identity theft very seriously, and we investigate each matter thoroughly to ensure no AAdvantage policies were violated.

We will need to speak with you in order to secure your account and file an award dispute. Please contact us at your earliest convenience by calling XXX-XXX-XXXX, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 7:00 pm CST, to complete this process. This process will take approximately 15-30 minutes. We will need to complete this process within 3 months of the date of the unauthorized redemption. We look forward to assisting you with this matter."


I called and was told that nothing could be done since my account was being handled by "account security" and they would reach out to me. It's been 4 months and no one ever reaches back out to me, despite my continous efforts to call in almost weekly (in hopes of getting someone who can assist in reinstating my account.) I'm quite confident I have not violated in TOS.

Does anyone have any experience trying to reinstate their account or an alternate phone number to reach out to? A few agents have been helpful and provided me alternative emails (see below) but none of my emails have been responded to.

[email protected]
[email protected]
bg26892 is offline  
Old Feb 15, 2024, 4:43 pm
  #963  
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Join Date: Jul 2011
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Programs: AA/DL/UA
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Originally Posted by bg26892
In October 2023 I found out that my account had become locked. I received the below email.

"Please contact AAdvantage Customer Service regarding the unauthorized access to your AAdvantage account. American Airlines takes claims of identity theft very seriously, and we investigate each matter thoroughly to ensure no AAdvantage policies were violated.

We will need to speak with you in order to secure your account and file an award dispute. Please contact us at your earliest convenience by calling XXX-XXX-XXXX, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 7:00 pm CST, to complete this process. This process will take approximately 15-30 minutes. We will need to complete this process within 3 months of the date of the unauthorized redemption. We look forward to assisting you with this matter."


I called and was told that nothing could be done since my account was being handled by "account security" and they would reach out to me. It's been 4 months and no one ever reaches back out to me, despite my continous efforts to call in almost weekly (in hopes of getting someone who can assist in reinstating my account.) I'm quite confident I have not violated in TOS.

Does anyone have any experience trying to reinstate their account or an alternate phone number to reach out to? A few agents have been helpful and provided me alternative emails (see below) but none of my emails have been responded to.

[email protected]
[email protected]
Okay. Did you redeem an award for someone else?
Kevin AA is offline  
Old Feb 15, 2024, 10:57 pm
  #964  
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 151
nope.

what i don't understand is being completely ignored for several months after multiple inquiries / channels

Last edited by bg26892; Feb 15, 2024 at 10:58 pm Reason: added info
bg26892 is offline  
Old Feb 16, 2024, 10:12 am
  #965  
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: TN
Programs: DL 2MM, AA ExPlat, UA S, HH S, MR LT Titanium, National Exec
Posts: 331
Originally Posted by Kevin AA
Okay. Did you redeem an award for someone else?
Huh? I can use miles to book for another passenger any time. Same with SWU. Now if it was sold that is another story.
  • Upgrades are void if sold or advertised for sale for cash or other considerations. Members may designate another passenger to use their upgrades.
GaryDD is offline  
Old Feb 16, 2024, 11:32 am
  #966  
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Houston, TX, USA
Programs: UA Platinum, AA Lifetime Platinum, DL Platinum, Honors Diamond, Bonvoy Ambassador, Hertz Platinum
Posts: 8,004
Originally Posted by bg26892
I'm quite confident I have not violated in TOS.
Despite that being the case, now that it seems that AA thinks you did, do you have a sense as to what they think the issue is?
Steve M is offline  
Old Feb 16, 2024, 11:53 am
  #967  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: NYC
Posts: 6,459
It seems they issue is getting AA to talk to bg rather than speculating on what the problem is.
hurnik, Global321, bg26892 and 1 others like this.
richarddd is offline  
Old Feb 17, 2024, 3:12 am
  #968  
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That's strange that AA doesn't want to talk despite there being no award redemptions.
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Old Feb 18, 2024, 11:36 am
  #969  
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: BOS
Programs: AA EXP, Hyatt Glob, Amex Plat
Posts: 270
This doesn't sound like an accusation of TOS violation. This sounds more like that someone tried to hack your account (or at least they think someone did), and they don't have their stuff together enough to actually finish following up.
meechyathere is offline  
Old Feb 19, 2024, 9:49 pm
  #970  
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 151
Originally Posted by Steve M
Despite that being the case, now that it seems that AA thinks you did, do you have a sense as to what they think the issue is?
The one thing I can think of is that maybe for whatever reason my most recent award redemption (which I ended up canceling last minute) was a flight from Pakistan to Sri Lanka. Maybe for some reason this looked suspect on their end?

Update - received an email from [email protected] saying that I should hear back via email this week. Fingers crossed!

Last edited by bg26892; Feb 20, 2024 at 10:56 am Reason: added info
bg26892 is offline  
Old Mar 26, 2024, 7:51 am
  #971  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Programs: AA (EP), Hilton (Diamond), Marriott Bonvoy (Titanium)
Posts: 8,946
Originally Posted by LowValueCustomer
Not that it makes any practical difference, but as a cybersecurity professional myself, I have to reiterate my strong objection to using something like an FFN as a security credential. If the concern is a similar password, that suggests that AA needs better prior password restrictions. But blindly relying on a non-private data element like an FFN to do your security hygiene for you by random chance strikes me personally as supremely ill-advised.
​​
I absolutely agree. What makes it especially egregious is that AA allows user-created login IDs, but even when a user has created a login ID, AA still allows logging in with one's AAdvantage number. That's the problem right there. If AA disallowed using one's AAdvantage number for logging in after creating a login ID, that would alleviate the risk of retaining an old account number.

AA should also support time-based one-time passwords, since this technique is extremely widely supported via a huge number of apps (e.g., Google Authenticator, 1Password, many more). It's widely supported via phone/tablet apps as well as laptop/desktop programs.
hurnik and LowValueCustomer like this.
anabolism is offline  
Old Mar 28, 2024, 10:02 pm
  #972  
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
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Posts: 2,840
Originally Posted by anabolism
I absolutely agree. What makes it especially egregious is that AA allows user-created login IDs, but even when a user has created a login ID, AA still allows logging in with one's AAdvantage number. That's the problem right there. If AA disallowed using one's AAdvantage number for logging in after creating a login ID, that would alleviate the risk of retaining an old account number.

AA should also support time-based one-time passwords, since this technique is extremely widely supported via a huge number of apps (e.g., Google Authenticator, 1Password, many more). It's widely supported via phone/tablet apps as well as laptop/desktop programs.
There's a related problem. I don't have an AA FF# (long story) but would like to still have a log in. When I try to create an account, though, it generates a new FF#.
SpammersAreScum is offline  
Old Mar 29, 2024, 8:41 am
  #973  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
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Posts: 8,946
Originally Posted by SpammersAreScum
There's a related problem. I don't have an AA FF# (long story) but would like to still have a log in. When I try to create an account, though, it generates a new FF#.
That's pretty common: in order to have a login, there needs to be an account that hold data, and accounts need a unique identifier. For AA, that's the AAdvantage number.

Can I ask for what purposes you want a login account but not an AAdvantage number? Maybe there's a workaround.
anabolism is offline  
Old Mar 29, 2024, 1:37 pm
  #974  
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Programs: AA Plat Pro
Posts: 962
Can't you simply manage the trip by entering PNR and last name? Quicker access to info vs logging in.
Bradhattan is offline  
Old Mar 29, 2024, 8:28 pm
  #975  
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Originally Posted by Bradhattan
Can't you simply manage the trip by entering PNR and last name? Quicker access to info vs logging in.
Yes, you can.
Dr. HFH is offline  

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