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What Alaska Airlines Did When My Account Was Hacked – Live and Let's Fly

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What Alaska Airlines Did When My Account Was Hacked – Live and Let's Fly


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My Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account was compromised, but when I contacted the airline to correct it, I was shocked by the response. 


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I’ve Been Saving Them For Years

Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan is an incredibly lucrative loyalty program for a few reasons. First, they partner for earning and redeeming with (11) carriers from a combination of Skyteam, Star Alliance, and independent carriers. That’s in addition to (soon) 15 oneworld Alliance members. Second, its redemption rates are below many peers.

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While I could credit American flights (now) to Alaska Airlines that hasn’t always been the case,  and there are few opportunities to fly the carrier directly from Pittsburgh.

However, over the years I have accrued miles in the program and amassed enough to make a valuable redemption. It’s been around 5-6 years that I started accruing through various random partner flights that made sense to credit to the carrier and transactions. I have a need, a one-way from Europe to the United States that I would like to redeem in business class for three people and an infant. I found the space but then I noticed a problem.

Devastation

Rather than more than 171,000 Mileage Plan miles, my balance showed at just 1,627. My heart sank, I panicked. It was more than just the fact that I couldn’t make my redemption and lost out on thousands, perhaps nearly as much as $10,000 in value if I were to buy the one-way tickets in cash. It felt like someone had been in my home, had gone through my things, and left most of it as they found it, but took this one thing of value and importance.

There are a few quirks about Mileage Plan’s site and one of them is that recent activity doesn’t show anything as a default older than three months. To see more activity, one must select “Filters Applied” and even then, it categorizes earnings first by method (five choices) before a second section offers three, six, 12 and 24 months.

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alaska airlines mileage plan fraud hacked redemptions

Selecting 24 months revealed that whoever compromised my account booked high end Qatar Airways flights beginning in May of last year. Another significant redemption was made in December. It’s absolutely true that I have not checked this account frequently enough to notice. It’s also true that while I have Award Wallet, I haven’t paid attention and haven’t checked that in some time.

Shame on me.

Something else to consider is that my password still worked. Whoever compromised my account didn’t change my password at all so logging in for my redemption, I was none the wiser and it didn’t set off any alarm bells.

Quick, But Incomplete Resolution

Mileage Plan’s service center for matters of this nature (800-654-5669) is open 7 AM – 7 PM – no time zone or days of the week provided in my communication with the airline. My call was answered by Yolanda and admittedly, she was excellent. One point of concern was that I couldn’t recall my prior address off the top of my head and I had to look it up, but she was fine with this as I had verified the rest of my information but from a social engineering aspect, it felt like my honest recollection issue should have flagged it further for her.

She asked me to send a copy of my ID (passport or driver’s license) to their email address for this purpose. I did so and she verified my information further.

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Within ten minutes, all of the stolen miles had been returned to my account, my email address I sent my ID from was my new address and all was well with the world again. I also added a redemption PIN.

But it wasn’t. I gave it about ten minutes for the changes to take hold, the miles appeared in my balance and I needed to tighten up my security and change my password. I couldn’t quickly find a way to determine the email address, phone, or even physical address I have on file with Alaska. However, when I went to reset my password, there it was. The email address and phone number that the perpetrators had changed were still there and hadn’t been updated to my phone number (provided on the call) nor the email (I sent my ID from.)

alaska airlines mileage plan fraud hacker details

As such, I couldn’t change my password online, it would just alert the thieves that I was doing so. I had to again call in, authorize myself in, and have it changed over the phone.

By not changing it as agreed, I could have flagged that the miles had been replaced, that I was aware of the security issue and suggested to those that hacked, engineered, or otherwise compromised my account that they book something from the replacement miles right away.

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Satisfied Customer

In the end, I am impressed by a few things. While Yolanda didn’t get the email and phone number updated as I had expected, she was really kind, helpful, and patient. And while Alaska Airlines might need to brush up some security protocols, they did the right thing in empowering agents to rectify problems like this without involving a manager, or extensive documentation process.

I remain concerned that I didn’t receive an email from Alaska saying that my details (email and phone number) had been changed initially. Those would have caused me to jump in and alert them of the compromise before any miles were redeemed in the first place and secure my account.

However, in the end, the miles were replaced by a friendly rep capable of solving my problem right away. It’s hard to get mad about that.

Conclusion

It could have been far worse. I could have faced a lengthy process to prove my identity. I had already thought about how Alaska could verify it wasn’t me from the IP address used to purchase the tickets, to unusual travel patterns; we could have looked at when the email address was changed in relation to the first redemption. It’s possible that Alaska would have viewed the transactions as too old to credit back and done nothing at all. But in the end, the airline spared me from any of that. The value from the program remains exceedingly valuable and if anything, it encouraged me to check my accounts more often, update my security, and probably double down on Alaska Airlines in the future. It’s easy to look like a great airline when everything is going right, but when there are challenges like this one, they made it easy to resolve and rose to the occasion.

What do you think? Have you had your account compromised? How was your experience? 

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Alaska

Fishing boat malfunction causes former Alaska state lawmaker to drop out of election • Alaska Beacon

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Fishing boat malfunction causes former Alaska state lawmaker to drop out of election • Alaska Beacon


A broken boat engine is causing former Republican Rep. Bill Thomas to cancel his plans to challenge Democratic Rep. Andi Story for a state House seat representing northern Southeast Alaska, Thomas said.

Thomas, 77, is Story’s lone opponent in this year’s legislative elections but said recent mechanical troubles with his fishing boat have left him no time to campaign while earning a living as a fisherman.

The planned withdrawal was first reported by the Juneau Empire.

“I’m a commercial fisherman first, and my engine’s not running,” Thomas said when reached by phone on Monday. “I can’t afford to go campaign while I’m trying to make a living fishing.”

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Thomas’ financial disclosure form states that he and his spouse, Joyce, are commercial fishers, each earning between $50,000 and $100,000 per year.

Thomas’ withdrawal has not yet been processed by the Alaska Division of Elections, which still lists him as a candidate.

June 29 is the deadline for a candidate to pull their name from the Aug. 20 primary election ballot. After that, a candidate may suspend their campaign, but their name will still appear on the primary ballot.

Nine of the 50 legislative seats up for election this year feature candidates running unopposed. Most are in districts with strong partisan leans, including Democratic-leaning Juneau, where Reps. Sara Hannan and Story are unopposed, as is Sen. Jesse Kiehl.

In Eagle River, Republican Rep. Dan Saddler is unopposed, as are Republican Reps. Delena Johnson of Palmer and Cathy Tilton of Wasilla.

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Alaska

Fire danger rises in Anchorage, open fires prohibited

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Fire danger rises in Anchorage, open fires prohibited


There has been activity at the old Northway Mall site in Northeast Anchorage, though it’s not confirmed who is moving in.
Less than a year ago, the site at 3103 Penland Parkway was full of trash. Now, a majority of that trash has been cleaned up. Work trucks are parked outside and permits seem to indicate that a new tenant will be moving in imminently.



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OPINION: Fighting for justice for a woman who died in an Alaska prison

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OPINION: Fighting for justice for a woman who died in an Alaska prison


Almost exactly two years ago, a longtime reentry and homeless advocate called to share the story of the life and death of Kitty Douglas. The 20-year-old from the traditionally Iñupiaq village of White Mountain — captured in photographs with a sweet, girlish grin — died at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in June 2022, days after being booked on charges that never appear to have been filed.

At the end of this past May, when I read the complaint filed in court by the lawyers seeking justice for Kitty’s family, I was overwhelmed. The Department of Corrections, or DOC, would finally be held accountable for its failure to protect a woman forced into their custody. Finally, there would be some semblance of justice for a life lost too young. But in my heart, I know that ultimate justice for Kitty would have been the ability to access the resources she needed to be healthy, well and alive.

Kitty moved to Anchorage as a young adult looking for new opportunities. Here, she became victim to Alaska’s failing social welfare systems, and struggled with mental health and housing security. In the early summer of 2022, she was using the services of the city’s only mass, low-barrier shelter. But the municipality had decided to close the shelter, leaving people to fend for themselves in the woods of Centennial Park. During the eviction, Kitty was arrested for criminal mischief. Case workers tried to intervene — Kitty was young enough to seek other shelter at Covenant House — but police officers ignored their pleas.

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Instead, Kitty was booked at the Anchorage Correctional Complex and transferred to Alaska’s women’s prison in Eagle River. As shared with us from case workers, advocates and her own family, Kitty’s battles with mental health issues were well documented, including her most recent mental health evaluation conducted just days before her death.

But DOC ignored her symptoms and failed to follow its own protocol.

Kitty Douglas was found dead in her cell at 7:18 p.m. on June 11, 2022, less than one week after being incarcerated. She was found by correctional officers an hour after she died by suicide.

We have a lot of questions about what happened during the final weeks and hours of her life.

But we know enough to know her death was preventable … if only.

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If only Anchorage had a stable system for helping those suffering from homelessness, instead of using the poor as political pawns.

If only the police officers who interacted with her used their discretion to allow the case workers who could help her to actually help her.

If only Alaska had adequate mental health resources.

If only DOC wouldn’t have ignored the signs and provided the support Kitty needed.

I’ve learned a lot about Kitty since her death. She was a daughter and friend. She was loved by many.

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She has also been a tragic inspiration to the Alaska Prison Project.

Hers was the first death we investigated. Now, we investigate every death in DOC custody. What we’ve learned has been devastating. Kitty’s story isn’t unique.

Thirty-nine people have died in DOC’s care since the start of 2022 — the majority were under 40, in DOC custody only a short time, and more than half hadn’t been convicted of a crime. The dead are disproportionately Alaska Native.

Last year, 52 homeless people died in Anchorage.

It’s easy to look at people like Kitty and all of the people dying in jail cells, homeless camps or shackled to hospital beds, as people living the fate of their own choices. But people are complicated. “Homeless,” “inmate,” “addict,” “mentally ill” — or whatever society has labeled our most vulnerable, aren’t identities, they are circumstances that can be overcome.

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Kitty was punished for being human, not harmful.

We can’t incarcerate our way out of our problems. We must meet the needs of the people, instead of punishing them for having needs. If we did this, maybe Kitty Douglas would still be alive.

Megan Edge is the ACLU of Alaska Prison Project Director, former journalist and DOC employee, as well as a lifelong Alaskan.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.





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