Air India’s loyalty scheme hacked
If you fly frequently with Air India and are unable to redeem your air miles, it is possible that hackers have taken a bite out of your reward points. Delhi Police’s cyber experts are probing a scam in Air India’s Flying-Returns scheme, under which a passenger can earn loyalty points by travelling with the national carrier and later redeem them.
A first information report (FIR) has been filed against unknown people after Air India’s Vigilance Department detected a racket using high-tech methods to steal frequent-flyer miles. According to an internal probe, a gang generated 20 e-mail IDs and diverted reward points earned by passengers, with possible help from some airline employees.
The month-long investigation revealed that about 170 tickets were purchased by unfair means using driving licences as ID, while many of them had the same signature, according to Dhananjay Kumar, Air India Senior Manager.
He said that as boarding passes were issued directly in these instances and driving licences are not considered valid proof, the likelihood of insider involvement is strong. Tickets worth almost ` 16 lakh have been sold on the basis of the stolen miles, say sources, adding that the probe may have merely scratched the surface as almost 20 lakh passengers are beneficiaries of AI’s Flying-Returns programme.
The loot was first noticed this month during the verification of ‘Know Your Customer’ documents uploaded by a member. The passenger submitted a driving licence as identity proof, which is not legitimate, but the account was still approved.
According to AI, all user IDs were checked and at least 20 were found to be suspect. The IDs were also hacked to gain unauthorised access to members’ accounts.
“On further investigation it was found out that these suspect user IDs had hacked various membership accounts and redeemed miles of genuine Flying-Returns members. The details of the number of miles redeemed from each such account as well as the tickets issued along with ticket number, name has been given,” Air India said in its complaint.