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A Travel-Hack Mystery: How Can You Redeem Stolen Airline Miles?

A Travel-Hack Mystery: How Can You Redeem Stolen Airline Miles?
Photograph by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Hackers love credit card numbers, sure, but frequent flier miles? US Airways is notifying some members of its Dividend Miles loyalty program that miles have been stolen from some 7,700 compromised accounts. The breach was discovered on July 12, the airline said in a regulatory filing mandated under a North Carolina identity-protection law. US Airways’s largest hub is in Charlotte.

But when it comes to miles theft—a crime that has historically been committed by airline employees or travel agents—making a clean getaway with the loot is exceedingly difficult. Award tickets and upgrades must have a passenger’s name, and merchandise bought with the stolen miles must be delivered somewhere. “Every way I sort of turn in thinking about this, it just ends up being kind of a bad way to go from the standpoint of the thief,” says Tim Winship, editor of FrequentFlier.com. “I’m kind of at a loss here as to kind of what a viable way of using the miles would be.”