Find out why you should be careful about tossing boarding passes

Erik Barajas Image
Monday, November 23, 2015
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Vital information is on our boarding passes that some may use to steal your info

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- With the busiest travel day of the year approaching this Wednesday, millions of travelers need to keep something in mind while flying the friendly skies. Those printed boarding passes many leave behind -- could be holding a lot more valuable information than you think.

Tis the season for holiday travel.

And once you reach your destination, what should you do with those printed boarding passes?

"I leave it in the seat back pocket or throw it in the trash," said traveler Alan Green.

But according to security experts, you could be leaving valuable information about yourself out there for the taking.

"The quickest thing that some criminal elements home come to play with in these if your frequent flyer program," said University of Houston Professor Chris Bronk.

Cyber security expert Chris Bronk says that number, along with a first and last name could open the gateway to hacking your account. To login, some airline websites ask security questions like "what city were you born in" or "what school did you attend?" Those answers could easily be discoverable with a quick online search.

"With the combination of login and barcode information, you're getting into a serious amount of information," said Bronk.

Like your home address, cell phone number, email address, air miles available in your account and a lot more, including your travel itinerary.

"You will see my future bookings, and you will know when I'm away," said Bronk.

Notifying would be criminals the window of opportunity for when you're not home.

So how are they able to get your frequent flier number, if it's not printed on the boarding pass?

"There are programs that have been written to translate the barcode data into readily readable text," he said.

A quick mobile search will give you the option to download and install various barcode readers. This one for the iPhone called Boarding Pass Scanner is available for 99 cents. Just use your phone's camera to scan the barcode and within seconds, the information is right there on your screen.

"(It's) pretty scary, kind of a breach of my security. All my information's there," said traveler Hazel Guerrero.

So as you're packing up and flying out this holiday season, the best advice is to wait until you're home to tear up those boarding passes or just go digital.

"If you have a mobile phone or tablet and prefer to use that at check in, this problem goes away entirely," said Bronk.

Regarding online frequent flyer accounts, United Airlines told Eyewitness News they recommend that customers choose security questions and answers that other individuals can't ascertain. They tell us they also notify customers when their account information has been altered, so they can report unauthorized changes.