If you use Delta SkyBonus (a program designed to reward businesses using Delta Air Lines and select SkyTeam carriers for employee travel), you might want to pay attention to this news.
Federal prosecutors indicted a Chicago travel agency partner for wire fraud for “illegally reaping millions of SkyBonus points worth more than $1.75 million dollars,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak. (Federal wire fraud charges = pretty major stuff.)
Charges allege Gennady Podolsky, a managing partner for Vega Travel, set up a SkyBonus account for “a fertility center owned and operated by a family member of the president of Vega Travel.”
It appears Podolsky would credit customers’ Delta travel to the SkyBonus account — even though they weren’t employees of the fertility clinic.
How many SkyBonus points did this tactic yield? According to the feds, over 42 million, “causing a loss to Delta of over $1.75 million dollars.”
René wrote several posts about SkyBonus. SkyBonus points are earned in addition to SkyMiles (or other loyalty program points). Participants can redeem points for free travel, upgrades, drink tickets, SkyClub passes, and more.
As it stands, a SkyBonus participant needs to spend at least $5,000 on travel, across no fewer than five unique employees — each calendar year. So if one person has four friends or family whom they don’t employ cough up their Delta, Alitalia, AeroMexico, KLM, Air France, or Virgin Atlantic ticket numbers, s/he can fraudulently meet the five employee minimum.
Is Delta Cracking Down?
If you use friends’ and family members’ ticket info to gain SkyBonus points — and said friends and family aren’t your employees — is this a big warning?
I don’t know. (I’m not a lawyer and none of this should be construed as legal advice.)
Someone earning, y’know, 42 million points will certainly raise eyebrows — and I’m guessing that’s what happened here. Should people who eek past the $5000 minimum with non-employees start lawyer shopping or hoping they look good in orange jumpsuits? Again, I’m not sure. Delta probably knows people abuse the program. Do they have time to weed through everyone and determine who does? Maybe, maybe not. But I bet some people might now think twice before crediting their BFF’s travel to SkyBonus.
H/T: Business Insider
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