How scammers use boarding passes to steal sensitive information

Boarding pass
Posted at 6:20 PM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 18:20:00-05

SARASOTA, Fla. -- You're supposed to keep your boarding pass handy when you get to the airport, but what about when you get off your flight?

There's a new warning out to keep that document safe, because your personal information could end up falling into the wrong hands. 

Traveler Rod Stelle admitted he didn't know what he did with his most recent boarding pass.

Stelle isn't alone. The question of where your boarding pass went stumps many. And then there are those who say they discard it once they're on board.

"I left it on the plane", said another traveler we spoke with on Tuesday.

During the course of the year, millions will fly and many will discard of their used boarding pass. But cyber security expert Jeff Birnbach says travelers should be on alert.

"There are a number of apps you can download from various places that can scan various types of bar codes. So for instance, you can download an app online that lets you extract various types of information. It's pretty simple.

Birnbach says a boarding pass could include personal information about your trip as well as things like your frequent flier number. That information could be used to access even more information about you, but the danger goes way beyond identity theft.

"If you had a boarding pass that's just lying around, someone could actually check a bag as you, and never get on that flight.  And, you don't really know what's in that bag, so there are some things people can exploit to do malicious deeds," added Birbach.

And the process of scanning the bar code doesn't take long. Within seconds, Birnbach was able to use his iPhone to scan and obtain personal information -- news that's already changing tourists' habits.

"Now that I know that people have an app that will access the boarding pass, I will shred it immediately," said Linda Stelle.