Travellers warned to think twice before printing their boarding pass

Printing out your boarding pass can be dangerous.
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This story was first published in November 2019.

Travellers who print their boarding passes are more susceptible to having their frequent flyer points stolen by hackers, according to a cybersecurity expert.

Loyalty points or air miles are regarded as a highly valuable commodity on the dark web. Frequent flyer points can be stolen and sold by hackers who take control of an account by using boarding pass information.

President and CEO of cybersecurity consulting firm CynergisTek, Caleb Barlow, told Forbes that paper boarding passes are "inherently insecure". Many people throw away their paper ticket without a second thought, making important information much easier to access than a mobile boarding pass.

Barlow says many frequent flyer accounts can be cracked with simply "your name, your booking reference number and your frequent flyer number" - all three of which are stated on the boarding pass. 

Fraudsters can then sell the hacked account on the dark web for hundreds of dollars or transfer the loyalty points into a different account. 

A report published last year by tech site Comparitech reported that a site called Dream Market set an average price of US$884 for 100,000 airline miles for many significant carriers.

Barlow says scammers often assume that travellers aren't staying up to date with their reward points.

"You're probably not watching your miles or points like you would be your bank account," he told the outlet.

Barlow recommends excited tourists to restrain themselves from sharing a photo of their boarding pass to social media, which makes it incredibly easy for hackers to access important details.

"When you put it on social media, you're talking about thousands of people who now have your details," Barlow says.

He advises prospective travellers to set up a two-factor authentication on their frequent flyer account for added protection and to use a mobile boarding pass via the airline's app.

At the end of the day, Barlow says: "Think of your frequent flyer number like a credit card or bank balance. Would you carelessly throw away a piece of paper with your credit card number and your name on it? Of course not."