Airline Ticket Fraud

New research: “Leaving on a jet plane: the trade in fraudulently obtained airline tickets:”

Abstract: Every day, hundreds of people fly on airline tickets that have been obtained fraudulently. This crime script analysis provides an overview of the trade in these tickets, drawing on interviews with industry and law enforcement, and an analysis of an online blackmarket. Tickets are purchased by complicit travellers or resellers from the online blackmarket. Victim travellers obtain tickets from fake travel agencies or malicious insiders. Compromised credit cards used to be the main method to purchase tickets illegitimately. However, as fraud detection systems improved, offenders displaced to other methods, including compromised loyalty point accounts, phishing, and compromised business accounts. In addition to complicit and victim travellers, fraudulently obtained tickets are used for transporting mules, and for trafficking and smuggling. This research details current prevention approaches, and identifies additional interventions, aimed at the act, the actor, and the marketplace.

Blog post.

Posted on May 11, 2018 at 6:24 AM10 Comments


vas pup May 11, 2018 10:48 AM

Air travel related:

“In a 2017 analysis of about 50 studies, researchers found that only a minority of people’s faces reflected their actual feelings. According to co-author Rainer Reisenzein, there was one strong exception: amusement, which almost always resulted in smiling or laughter.

If our expressions don’t actually reflect our feelings, there are enormous consequences.
One is in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), specifically robotics. “A good number of people are training their artificial intelligence and their social robots using these classic ‘poster’ faces,” says Fridlund. But if someone who frowns at a robot is signaling something other than simple unhappiness, the AI may respond to them incorrectly.
“There’s no way to predict how the robot should react when it sees a smiley face or a pouty face or a growling face,” Fridlund points out. “You have to have some kind of knowledge of the person’s role with respect to you, and also your history together, before knowing what that face means.” Fridlund, who consults with companies that develop AI, feels that AI taught to draw from contextual cues will be more effective.

It turns out that we might communicate better if we saw faces not as mirroring hidden emotions – but rather as actively trying to speak to us.”

Inside the article there is link to TSA behavioral check list on threat assessment. Somebody call that program BS, but if all those clues are running through AI first, then AI could monitor behavior and assess risk probability for particular passenger then it would be more scientific validation. It seems to me that behavioral clues for person using fraudulent ticket could be close to potential terrorist threat, but research is needed to justify. By the way Israel is using behavioral assessment in airports successfully. So, idea is not bad, but implementation needs more creativity and research.

justinacolmena May 11, 2018 12:33 PM

It’s a flying red-light district. Do you see those scantily clad heavily made-up “flight attendants” who serve alcoholic liquor right on board the aircraft? If you look cross-eyed at one of them, then you are suddenly a terrorist wanted on a federal warrant. You should consider yourself lucky to step off the plane and leave the property of the airport at your destination without being arrested.

I mean you can be mentally ill, and hang out at coffee shops and such without being arrested, but flying while mentally ill is considered federal felony aggravated mental insanity in the third degree, and you are a danger to yourself and others and likely to blow yourself up in a suicide bombing and blah blah blah.

You are mentally incompetent to stand trial, adjudicated as a mental defective in a court of law, lose your right to possess firearms for life, and so on and so forth. Several years of probation in “mental health court” because cause so much harm to society with your uncontrolled mental illness when you refuse to take your medication.

Yeah, go to or and you’ve committed fraud. They have a warrant to search your computer just because. I mean these people can’t tell a bargain from fraud or distinguish between a deal and a steal, so they accuse you of the latter, while they rifle through your personal computer and steal all your personal information and photos you took on that expensive trip.

And they wonder why people are angry.

milkshake May 11, 2018 1:35 PM

I can’t see the profit in it – you have to commit a fairly competent identity theft and hacking, paid with a compromised card, to rip off the airline maybe for one thousand USD, with a profit margin few hundred USD per ticket, at best. And your customer base in this transaction is really exposed – a person that flies on a shady ticket, under assumed name, with a fake ID, can be nabbed at the airport, it is a big risk for the customer and for the operation. Surely someone has tried this, maybe in Africa, but I can’t see how this could become a global problem.

echo May 11, 2018 1:58 PM

Crime script analysis looks like it may be useful in deconstructing and analysing abuse within an intersectional and/or instititional context. UK police have got themselves in hot water because of their neglect of intersectional crime and also lagging with their recruitment and training base as the average population is better educated than has historically been the case.

The problem with organisations like the police is they are often surrounded by a foggy wall of canteen culture and obstructionism.

Another problem is ivory tower syndrome where expertise is hidden behind paywalled journals. It’s almost impossible to get through to a ciminologist or developmental psychologist to discuss perspectives and get a technical understanding which can be used to facilitate dialogue with organisations like the police. Of the tiny minority who do have this special knowledge or access very few statistically, I suspect, are at risk from the kinds of crimes the police don’t have any active interest in.

justinacolmena May 11, 2018 3:37 PM


your customer base in this transaction is really exposed

People who fly on airlines (A) tend to have a lot of money and (B) are likely to be away from home. Both factors make them highly targeted marks for identity theft.


organisations like the police … are often surrounded by a foggy wall of canteen culture and obstructionism

That’s the “brotherhood” … братва

ivory tower syndrome where expertise is hidden behind paywalled journals

Oh, they’re “journals,” you say? That’s pay-per-view content. On the internet. Generally of very low rank. The college jock frat-house and dorm environment does not really make it any better. If you have to pay $30.00++ just to view the article or “download” it, let’s just say “viewer discretion advised” and find someone more reputable to ask.

… get through to a ciminologist or developmental psychologist to discuss perspectives and get a technical understanding which can be used to facilitate dialogue with organisations like the police …

Good luck with that. There’s a pretty secretary answering the phone, and if you walk in to the office, she’s wearing a short skirt, heavy lipstick, and hoop earrings, and crossing her legs while dangling a high-heeled shoe from one foot, chewing gum, and talking to one of her best friends forever on the phone. The docs understand canteen culture and obstructionism very well on their own terms, but don’t expect them to acknowledge it in any sort of plain language for the public or the court system.

echo May 11, 2018 4:17 PM


Yes, I do know what you mean. If the respectable journals are stingy I normally contact the author direct to obtain a paper.

jdgalt May 11, 2018 11:18 PM

Like other overregulated businesses, airlines effectively have an oligopoly and have been using it for decades to impose outrageous rules on the traveling public. Preventing the customer from reselling/scalping his ticket is a perfect example, and is the reason airlines urged the federal government to impose ID requirements long before 9/11.

This is just one of many reasons I have refused to fly since 9/11. I don’t fear freelance terrorists — I fear the ones my taxes pay for, directly and indirectly.

Herman May 12, 2018 12:34 AM

“People like to point out that El Al uses behavioural observations” – In my experience they do use it, but it doesn’t really work. They annoyed me multiple times so I don’t fly El Al anymore. They believe they got rid of a threat, but I worked with their military at the time so they could not have been more wrong. Sigh…

Security Sam May 12, 2018 11:37 PM

It seems that since the dawn of time
Humanity has been drawn to crime
Gone are the gentlemen of fortune
Who resorted to the act of torture
Now the white color crime headlines
Has placed the lads on the sidelines
As soon as a fraud solution is found
Offenders find a clever workaround
Keeping the authorities off guard
They are the cyberspace brigands.

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