Man Accused Of Hacking United Airlines Website, Stealing Travel Vouchers

Image courtesy of Adam Fagen

There are a few ways you can earn travel vouchers that let you fly on the cheap or for free, but slipping in the back door and stealing them could also earn you a trip to court. That’s the lesson playing out right now in Utah, where officials charged a man with a slew of crimes including theft after he allegedly hacked United Airlines and boosted unredeemed vouchers.

The suspect was charged in the state’s 3rd District Court with computer crimes, theft, communications fraud, and engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, all second-degree felonies, Deseret News reports.

Investigators said in a probable cause statement that the man “unlawfully accessed the United Airlines website and obtained Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) codes for Electronic Travel Certificates that had been assigned to United customers but had not yet been redeemed by those customers,” between about July 2012 to September 2012.

The security specialist reportedly discovered that many of those ETCs were obtained by a single user at an IP address of a company where the suspect worked at the time. He admitted to obtaining the vouchers and then either using them for himself, or turning around and selling them online on sites like Craigslist and

All told, he allegedly used 13 vouchers — valued at $7,800 — for personal travel, and sold about 120 more worth $58,000 to others.

Some of the folks who bought the hot vouchers must have thought they’d wandered into a really great deal: one couple bought two travel certificates with a value of $2,400 for less than $2,000, the probable cause statement says, allowing them to book a round-trip vacation from New Jersey to Munich.

The suspect didn’t exactly stay quiet about his alleged crimes, investigators said: he sent an email to the carrier in September 2012 claiming he had “found a massive hole in the website” that he would tell them about if United paid him $10,000 and first-class tickets to anywhere in the world.

Utahn charged with hacking United Airlines website, stealing travel vouchers [Deseret News]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.