Stolen travel rewards are a hot commodity on the darknet. Hackers typically steal points by obtaining a traveler’s login credentials through phishing and data servers. While all of it might seem a little far-fetched for the average internet-browsing traveler, the risks are real.
An August 2018 study by Comparitech found that more than a dozen rewards programs (Delta Air Lines and British Airways were listed the most) were being sold by a single vendor on Dream Market, a darknet black market.
According to the study, the stolen points were typically used to buy gift cards at reduced rates, and some were even making their way into “grey markets” internet users can find through Google searches. Prices fluctuated, but the rewards were sold at drastically lower prices than the average purchase price and were often bought with cryptocurrency.
How to protect your rewards
So how do you protect your rewards account? People don’t check the balance of their points stash as they do for their checking accounts, but there are a few simple things you can do to keep your rewards secure.
- Don’t post your boarding pass to social media. It may be fun to Instagram your boarding pass in a fun location or at the airport, but don’t do it. Comparitech warns that posting your boarding pass shares your frequent flyer account information and puts your account at risk. In fact, it could be best to shred your ticket after travel.
- Take data breaches seriously. Delta had a phishing email hack that caused many accounts to be stolen, and British Airways announced a data breach earlier this year. If a rewards program you use announces a breach, pay attention and follow instructions to protect yourself.
- Don’t put your frequent flyer accounts on baggage tags. This isn’t a guarantee to help lost bags be found, and only leaves your accounts more susceptible to hackers.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- No annual fee: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
- Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Premium travel rewards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business travelers: The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Best travel credit cards of 2018
How to prevent identity theft
This strategy is how I started earning major travel rewards