Someone stole my American Airlines miles!

stolen airline miles

When someone steals 50,000 American Airlines miles from Gail Louis, she finds herself caught in the middle of a paperwork squabble. Can she ever get her points back?

Question

Someone stole 50,000 miles from my American Airlines AAdvantage account. The points were redeemed for a flight.

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I reported the theft to the Internet Crime Complaint Center and filed a police report, as requested by American Airlines. The airline provided the names of the two passengers who flew using my miles. I gave these names in my police report. But now, American says the suspect names must show on the police report before it reinstates my miles.

The Sheriff’s Department says the suspect names must be redacted because there were no arrests. So I find myself caught in the middle with nowhere to go. Could you help me get my 50,000 miles back? — Gail Louis, Placerville, Calif.

Answer

I’m sorry someone stole your American Airlines miles. You can add that to a long list of other things the bad guys are trying to steal from you.

The airline is under no obligation to return the awards, if I’m reading its terms and conditions correctly. But a representative assured you in writing that you’d get the miles back, so the airline should do what it said.

You kept a terrific paper trail. It shows that the American representative would not accept the police report you filed because it redacted the names of the suspects. What a maddening bureaucratic problem.

I can’t pass up the opportunity to say something about the value of participating in a loyalty program. According to American’s terms, your miles have “no cash value.” How refreshingly honest! Many travelers are better off booking the best airline ticket for their money instead of playing the miles game. You may be among them.

When you’re caught in a bureaucratic Catch-22, you can sometimes request additional documentation from one of the parties. Maybe American would have accepted something in writing from the sheriff’s department, verifying that it had recorded the names of the suspects but explaining why it couldn’t list the names on its crime report. Bottom line: There might have been a way to negotiate a solution.

How to contact American Airlines about your stolen miles

Finally, I think you could have appealed this to an American Airlines executive. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the key managers on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

Your case is a cautionary tale about computer security. Remember to change your passwords often and never share a password between accounts. Security breaches happen all the time. Passwords are compromised. And then you end up paying for a thief’s vacation trip.

I contacted American on your behalf. It says it never received a separate form filed with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Once you supplied American with that form, the airline returned your 50,000 miles.