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

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

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Old May 2, 18, 1:04 am   -   Wikipost
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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 View Post
<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 View Post
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 View Post
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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Old Oct 2, 16, 7:08 am
  #1  
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My Take Away

too many members who are lawyers (or who are not lawyers but really wish they were) on FT
UA Apologist is offline  
Old Jan 3, 17, 10:32 am
  #2  
 
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TO BE CLEAR: I have not done anything yet, I wanted to consult your collective knowledge before I did anything and if I loose the award space, so be it.

A few key points:
  1. I have enough miles in my Advantage account for one round trip ticket in First Class on Cathay Pacific Airlines to BKK.
  2. I have enough miles in my Alaska Airlines account for one round trip ticket in First Class on Cathay Pacific Airlines to BKK.

My best friend from Medical School was recently found to be in complete remission from appendiceal cancer (a rare cancer to begin with). To celebrate we all (she, my wife and I) decided to go somewhere outside the USA and she picked BKK.

Fine, she is covering the hotels and I said that I would treat her to the flight and since she has always heard my Wife and I talk about First Class on this airline or that one, I would fly her in First Class. Since my Wife is going to be Tokyo for a conference anyway, she would use the conference to pay for the long part of the ticket and she would buy a ticket to BKK in cash.

Ok, now I have found award space on Cathay a small miracle in of itself and set out to pay for it, the issue I do not enough have miles in any account to pay for 2 tickets, but I have enough miles in the AA and AS accounts that I referenced above for a ticket each.

My fear AA will see me redeeming a ticket in a difference person's name, i.e. looks like I am selling ticket and not realize that I am myself flying on the same flights but using AS miles for my ticket or visa versa I use the AS miles for my friend's ticket and the AA miles for ticket and AS assumes I am selling the miles because I am not also in their eyes flying on the same flight.

Obviously, I could email AA or AS if either questioned the transaction a copy of my ticket, but that is after the investigation has started and it seems from reading this thread and others that the fraud departments are not quick to investigate and close their investigations.

My question, is there any way to short circuit any possible investigation by explaining upfront what I am attempting to do, so it is not seen as suspicious or am I overthinking the entire thing?

Any insight, I would greatly appreciate.

Thanks,
Kmersh
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Old Jan 3, 17, 10:38 am
  #3  
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You are overthinking it. There is nothing suspicious about simply redeeming an award for someone else, even if you aren't flying on the same flights. Book the flight for your friend and don't worry (and congrats to her for beating cancer).
Marsh11 likes this.
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Old Jan 3, 17, 10:41 am
  #4  
 
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Originally Posted by kmersh View Post
  1. I have enough miles in my Advantage account for one round trip ticket in First Class on Cathay Pacific Airlines to BKK.
  2. I have enough miles in my Alaska Airlines account for one round trip ticket in First Class on Cathay Pacific Airlines to BKK.
I am sorry to hear of your friend's illness and I hope that she fights it off.

Ignoring other considerations, can you get the tickets as two one ways with both of you on the same PNR? This woulkd show that you are travelling together and also makes it less likely that you will be parted in the case of IRROPS.
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Old Jan 3, 17, 10:43 am
  #5  
 
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If you are both flying from the same city - just link the PNR's when you make the second reservation.

Either way - this situation is easily explainable if any questions are asked since you are flying on the same itinerary and you could answer any questions about the person traveling on your award (name, address, age etc) - unlike somebody who has sold an award to an unknown traveler. Most importantly - your guest would also be able to explain where they got the ticket.

I have given away dozens of tickets to friends and family over the past 20 years - no issues at all.

There are no rules against gifting tickets - just selling.
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Old Jan 3, 17, 10:44 am
  #6  
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Originally Posted by kmersh View Post
TO BE CLEAR: I have not done anything yet, I wanted to consult your collective knowledge before I did anything and if I loose the award space, so be it.

A few key points:
  1. I have enough miles in my Advantage account for one round trip ticket in First Class on Cathay Pacific Airlines to BKK.
  2. I have enough miles in my Alaska Airlines account for one round trip ticket in First Class on Cathay Pacific Airlines to BKK.

My best friend from Medical School was recently found to be in complete remission from appendiceal cancer (a rare cancer to begin with). To celebrate we all (she, my wife and I) decided to go somewhere outside the USA and she picked BKK.

Fine, she is covering the hotels and I said that I would treat her to the flight and since she has always heard my Wife and I talk about First Class on this airline or that one, I would fly her in First Class. Since my Wife is going to be Tokyo for a conference anyway, she would use the conference to pay for the long part of the ticket and she would buy a ticket to BKK in cash.

Ok, now I have found award space on Cathay a small miracle in of itself and set out to pay for it, the issue I do not enough have miles in any account to pay for 2 tickets, but I have enough miles in the AA and AS accounts that I referenced above for a ticket each.

My fear AA will see me redeeming a ticket in a difference person's name, i.e. looks like I am selling ticket and not realize that I am myself flying on the same flights but using AS miles for my ticket or visa versa I use the AS miles for my friend's ticket and the AA miles for ticket and AS assumes I am selling the miles because I am not also in their eyes flying on the same flight.

Obviously, I could email AA or AS if either questioned the transaction a copy of my ticket, but that is after the investigation has started and it seems from reading this thread and others that the fraud departments are not quick to investigate and close their investigations.

My question, is there any way to short circuit any possible investigation by explaining upfront what I am attempting to do, so it is not seen as suspicious or am I overthinking the entire thing?

Any insight, I would greatly appreciate.

Thanks,
Kmersh
It is very common to "gift" miles/tickets to someone. The trick is to NOT talk about trading room for flights or any other form of barter, especially on travel forums (AA does monitor FT). Even though it sounds innocent enough, someone may choose to take it out of context and drop the hammer on you (jr staff looking to make points at work?).

Just keep an eye on all the rezzies to make sure they progress through to ticketed and stays there. Call AA at the first sign of anything wrong.
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Old Jan 3, 17, 12:27 pm
  #7  
 
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Originally Posted by kmersh View Post
...she is covering the hotels and I said that I would treat her to the flight ...
AA, in the strictest definition of the rules, could see this as bartering.

I think you have some good advice from others above.
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Old Jan 3, 17, 12:51 pm
  #8  
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Book a one-way reservation that the account owner AND the friend travel on the same itinerary, same PNR. Do the same on either AA or AS account - both are on one-way system therefore it makes things really simple and easy.

As long as the account owner is also traveling on the same PNR, you should be fine on that. You could mention to the agent that is "me and my friend" traveling together and ask the agent to notate the reservation accordingly but it is not necessary.

Otherwise you are thinking way too much.

The hotel part does not need to be mentioned anywhere, including here. It is strictly your private matter.
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Old Jan 3, 17, 12:55 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by Happy View Post
Book a one-way reservation that the account owner AND the friend travel on the same itinerary, same PNR.
Side benefit here is that if there are any irregular operations, the airline will recognize you are traveling together and would hopefully reroute you on the same flights. Book separate tickets and you could end up on entirely different replacement flights if something goes wrong.
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Old Jan 3, 17, 2:36 pm
  #10  
 
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All excellent advice, I had not thought about the one-way/one-way idea and I am going to run with that.

Flyertalk is truly a great resource and you all are the reason.

THANK YOU!!!
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Old Jan 4, 17, 4:30 am
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Originally Posted by tom911 View Post
Side benefit here is that if there are any irregular operations, the airline will recognize you are traveling together and would hopefully reroute you on the same flights. Book separate tickets and you could end up on entirely different replacement flights if something goes wrong.
This is sound advice. I had this happen once when I was traveling with my spouse who doesn't have status. Our final segment had a rolling delay that turned into a cancellation. By the time we found out about the cancellation I was getting the call from AA about having been rebooked on the first flight out the next morning. She was placed on a subsequent flight in the afternoon. The EXP desk couldn't do anything since the flights were all zeroed out, and we ended up both having to push the schedule back to the next evening to get home on the same flight. That being said, I've traveled on the same flights but with different PNRs many times without problems.
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Old Jan 4, 17, 6:53 am
  #12  
 
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So an update, I.booked the tickets as two one-ways, without issue and I greatly appreciate your collective advice.

Interestingly, the American Airlines phone rep did ask how we were getting home and I explained that I was booking the return portion via Alaska Airlines.

She laughed and said that she had no heard of a passenger using two different airline accounts to book a trip but more power to me.

Alaska didn't even make a comment.

Thanks again for all of your advice!
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Old Jan 4, 17, 10:10 am
  #13  
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Originally Posted by kmersh View Post
So an update, I.booked the tickets as two one-ways, without issue and I greatly appreciate your collective advice.

Interestingly, the American Airlines phone rep did ask how we were getting home and I explained that I was booking the return portion via Alaska Airlines.

She laughed and said that she had no heard of a passenger using two different airline accounts to book a trip but more power to me.

Alaska didn't even make a comment.

Thanks again for all of your advice!
Not to rain on your parade, but IF AA chooses to take action, it probably won't be until right before the trip. Keep an eye on your rez and take action at the first sign of a problem. There have been some reports of them dropping the hammer on the return trip (since you're on another airline not likely here). But imagine trying to get home and have the airline cancel your flight! Walkup fares are not cheap.
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Old Jan 4, 17, 10:25 am
  #14  
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Originally Posted by RogerD408 View Post
Not to rain on your parade, but IF AA chooses to take action, it probably won't be until right before the trip. Keep an eye on your rez and take action at the first sign of a problem. There have been some reports of them dropping the hammer on the return trip (since you're on another airline not likely here). But imagine trying to get home and have the airline cancel your flight! Walkup fares are not cheap.
Caution always good, but I'd say zero chance of this in this case.
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Old Jan 4, 17, 5:27 pm
  #15  
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Originally Posted by kmersh View Post
So an update, I.booked the tickets as two one-ways, without issue and I greatly appreciate your collective advice.

Interestingly, the American Airlines phone rep did ask how we were getting home and I explained that I was booking the return portion via Alaska Airlines.

She laughed and said that she had no heard of a passenger using two different airline accounts to book a trip but more power to me.

Alaska didn't even make a comment.

Thanks again for all of your advice!
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).
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