American Airlines has filed a lawsuit against a group of online criminals who are using websites designed to appear as if they belong to the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline to trick customers as part of a sophisticated online fraud scheme that could be netting the thieves hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The number of internet fraud schemes that use international airlines as a cover has ballooned in recent years and American Airlines is now fighting back by trying to pursue the criminals in a federal court.
In a recent lawsuit, the airline is hoping to convince the court to transfer control of a slew of websites that are designed, at first glance, to appear as if they belong to American Airlines.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the airline are also seeking monetary damages, although the likelihood of tracking down the real identities of the criminals is almost nonexistent.
The website addresses, which include misspellings like AmericaknAirlines.com and AmericanAirlinese.com, are commonly used to send fraudulent phishing emails that are designed to look like they were sent from the genuine American Airlines.
Victims are often presented with fake flight change email or booking confirmation email that uses American Airlines logos to lure victims into clicking a link that sends users through to a website containing malware that could then infect the victim’s computer or smartphone and then steal their personal data.
In other cases, victims are presented with a fake website designed to look like the real airline website where they are encouraged to enter personal details.
More and more potential victims have cottoned onto these scams and click on the sender’s name to reveal the email address to check to see if it’s genuine. In this case, a victim might not read the address properly and misidentify the fraudulent email as belonging to American Airlines.
American Airlines says in its lawsuit: “Typical airline industry scams include fake travel agencies, travel agencies pretending to be an airline, or persons pretending to be travel agencies or an airline in order to trick unsuspecting consumers into engaging in fraudulent transactions, obtain a consumer’s personal and financial data, and even to post fake job listings aimed at obtaining confidential consumer information.”
“American has detected a cluster of counterfeit domain names which appear to be related to each other, and which are likely being used in connection with email, phishing and reservation fraud scams”.
The latest lawsuit has been filed in Virginia but American Airlines is also pursuing similar claims in New York. Other airlines have also sought to shut down criminals targeting their brands, although websites using slightly different spellings keep on cropping up.
Although these scam emails can be incredibly deceptive, there are ways to protect yourself. Be wary of unsolicited emails, especially if they don’t address you by name and hover over any links to reveal the actual website address. If in doubt, don’t click on any links and instead contact the airline direct.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.