Flyertalk member bseller, whom I had the pleasure to sit next to on a flight from the West Coast to Chicago in business class on a 777 back in 2002, offers some experience with United’s Mileage Plus fraud folks.
He tells the story of an upgrade — which was technically traded for with another member against Mileage Plus rules — being flagged by United as possible fraud.
“There was a FRAUD ALERT in the PNR and it required that I verify the validity of the upgrade”, or words to that effect.
I should point out that this U/G was done ONLINE.
Here are the questions asked- AND they were REQUIRED to be anssered PRIOR to the issuance of a BP. This is NOT “optional” sh*t; You guys can proceed at your risk:
Q: How did you upgrade?
Q: How much did you PAY, for the upgrade?
Q: Who sponsored you?
Q: How do you know this person?
Q: Do you know where this person lives?
Q: Do you have a contact number, for this person?
Trading upgrades — just like selling upgrades (and award tickets — is against the rules of pretty much all programs. Occasionally the program flags an upgrade or award for greater scrutiny based on their own internal formula (and many programs do stalk eBay to track down sales). Consequences can include cancelling a ticket and requiring the passenger to pay full fare, and shutting down the sponsoring member’s account. If the sponsor has a very large stash of miles that’s obviously a serious consequence.
On the other hand, first time offenders sometimes get off a bit more lightly, especially if they ‘fess up to what they’ve done. There are plenty of threads on Flyertalk about this in the United and American Airlines forums.
It’s also why, whenever I give someone an upgrade or an award, I’ll also send them a gifting letter of sorts. It wishes them well, perhaps happy birthday or anniversary, it has my address and telephone number on the letter. That way they have my information handy just in case there’s any sort of problem. And I’d hate for a friend to know my work address when it’s my home address on my frequent flyer account, or vice versa.
I don’t worry too much when gifting an award or ugprade is perfectly within a program’s rules, but I am the cautious sort and knowing that flags on awards and upgrades do happen I want to make sure that there aren’t any misunderstandings.
And the consequence is severe enough that I wouldn’t gift an award or upgrade to someone I didn’t know and trust, e.g. selling something through a broker.