… is behind bars now. A few months ago, a man called Damanpreet Singh Bedi was arrested in Delhi, for using about 20 million miles which he stole from British Airways’ genuine customers,. This chap, who operated his own travel agency out of Delhi, allegedly used these miles to redeem them on BA and other airlines, besides redeeming them for hotel rooms.
As per this news report in a newspaper:
He was redeeming the points to buy tickets from British Airways and other international airlines besides buying free stays in hotels across the globe.
According to British Airways data, 20 million points worth millions of pounds were stolen. The airline, however, did not let genuine customers suffer losses, the police and airline claimed. “Whenever someone stole the points from the booking system, the genuine passenger could redeem his/her points after opening the executive club account. Even when it came to the notice of BA that a few unauthorized persons were siphoning off the Avios points by creating fake executive club accounts, they let the points be redeemed by the genuine flier. They approached us later,” Yadav said.
The modus operandi of the operation, lies in the exploitation of the Amadeus platform used by BA:
It was revealed that some particular IP addresses were taking unauthorized access to the database of Amadeus – a platform which provides IT-enabled service for the global travel and tourism industry and is used by them to book tickets. “The same IPs were being used in creating fake executive accounts. The details of IP addresses used for unauthorized extraction of the Avios points were obtained and the team zeroed down on Kripa Travels, based on technical analysis and local intelligence,” DCP (crime) Bhisham Singh said.
Bedi, turned out to be a booking agent for the airline and had the user ID to log into Amadeus. “He stole the flier data like PNR number, passenger name and other details. Then he created a fake executive club account at BA.com in the name of the passenger to access the Avios points. In this way, he accumulated the Avios points of various passengers. Thereafter, he used to purchase tickets by redeeming the collected points and sold the tickets to his clientele,” Yadav said.
Turns out this is the modus operandi tonnes of travel agents followed with Air India for years, apparently accumulating the airmiles of their clients without the knowledge of the client, and then booking them to sell them to other passengers. This eventually required them to add a paperwork step to their process. However, what I never heard before, was about an agent illegally using the Amadeus platform to add fake BA Executive Club accounts to their bookings, and going unnoticed for so long.
Eh, I am cringed at three levels here. First, the fact that this went on for so long under British Airways’ nose, and they took a long while to pursue this to its logical end. That their IT systems are not world best is known to everyone, but even now, there is only patchwork on top of the existing system to try and make it more secure. And along with Amadeus they just sat on it for something big to happen? Our very own Lucky went through the hoops with them. Although, I have to give it to BA, that they compensated the people in whose accounts the points were not originally accumulated.
Second, I am cringed that why did this bloke uses miles to book hotel stays. I mean, there were so many better ways to use those miles. For Cathay Pacific premium cabins, for American Airlines economy and so on. So why did this cheapster use them for hotel stays?
Third, the valuation of the points. In one of the reports, here is what the cops said about the value of the points:
The Crime Branch of the Delhi Police, which made the arrest, said that by valuing each point to an approximate 1.5 pounds, total worth of the Avios stolen by the accused could easily be somewhere between a whooping 25 to 30 million pounds.
Unless the value of the points was being arrived at after redemption, and compared to the price at which the ticket was sold, I don’t believe this number. The value of an Avios would be more in the range of 1-2 cents, not more than 100x of that. I do invite the cop in question to have a tete-a-tete with me about his extremely inflated valuation of these points
It is always better to keep an eye on your frequent flyer accounts for any suspicious activity. You could use AwardWallet if you like keeping all your mileage balances in one place.
Have you ever been a victim of such mileage fraud? Do share your stories for us to learn from