Don't let your boarding pass become a ticket to identity theft

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Boarding passes could lead to identity theft (AP)

The holiday travel season is in full swing; are you hitting the friendly skies? If so, you want to make sure you take some important steps when it comes to your boarding pass.

That little piece of paper can be a gold mine for thieves.

Traveler James Bradshaw tells me he leaves his boarding pass on the plane. When I asked him why he does that he tells me: "Most of the time I forget it."

Another traveler, Juan Cortes, tells me his boarding pass stays with him at all times, and when he gets home he shreds it.

Shredding it is exactly what you should do with your boarding pass.

"Boarding passes are a potential treasure trove to an identity thief," said Professor William Kresse of Governors State University in University Park, Illinois. "Some airlines print right on the boarding pass such things as your name, first name, last name, and your frequent-flier number. Others will have it encoded and printed. Others place it into a bar code and if you use the right app you got that information."

Yes, scanner apps can read the bar code info. Kresse and other experts say once a thief has it, they can attempt to guess your password or pin to access your frequent-flier account online.

"They can go into your account they can change your flights; they can steal the miles you have banked," Kresse said. "If you have your credit card tied on the frequent-flier account they can purchase gift cards for that airline up to $1,000."

The International Air Transport Association says bar codes are used as an industry standard for security, but there is no requirement that frequent-flier numbers be included and each airline makes its own decision.

As an additional threat, security experts say, international airlines sometimes print your passport number and country of origin on the boarding pass. All information you don't want getting into the wrong hands.

Even if information on your boarding pass is minimal, you should still tear it up or shred it. Sometimes crooks will slowly build profiles on victims with small bits of information.

You can also use mobile boarding passes, but those too should be deleted in case you lose your phone.

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