Whether it's for networking or forming new partnerships, having points and miles gives us flexibility when we want to travel for our business. 

For many business travelers, myself included, points and miles are extremely valuable. We spend ample time and money finding new ways to earn them, learn about their airline partners so we may find the best deals, and use their benefits to save money

Unfortunately, hackers have noticed our efforts. Points and miles fraud is a rising form of theft that's taking traveler's hard-earned points and selling them for money. However, there are steps you can take to protect your account and prevent hackers from ever getting inside your company's information.

Here are some steps I take to safeguard my credit cards and loyalty accounts from attacks.

1. Create a stronger password.

Though this is common advice, many people still use simple passwords or the same one across websites. It's easier to use a password you can remember and not have to search for, but it's a weak line of defense. Not only are you able to easily access your account, but so are hackers.

If you use social media and depending on what you post, your personal information can be accessible to the public. It's not hard for hackers to use different variations of your name, the name of your high school, and your birthday before they find the correct combination.

When creating a new password, ensure that it doesn't contain any personal information about you, your family, friends or even pets. A strong password includes random letters, numbers, and special symbols that are strung together without any underlining meaning.

Once you've created your new, stronger password, write it down in your cell phone's notepad. While it might be a hassle to create a password that you'll have to always find to insert, the time it'll cost you is considerably less than the time it'll take to reacquire your points, if they're stolen.

2. Enable two-step authentication.

Let's suppose that you have an intricate password, but somehow, a hacker still was able to figure out what it was and access your points and miles. We don't know what hackers are capable of these days. They might have access to powerful technology that can easily bypass any password on a system, whether easy or complicated.

But that doesn't mean you're doomed. You can enable two-step authentication as an extra barrier between hackers and your points. Two-step authentication works by sending you a time-sensitive code, sent to either your phone or email, that you have to input to access your account.

If it's really you, then you'll simply enter your code and continue to your account. But if it's not you, then you can immediately notify someone that there's a potential breach in their system and someone's trying to hack your account.

3. Regularly check your accounts.

How can you tell that you're a victim of fraud if you're not checking your loyalty and credit card accounts?

By checking your accounts weekly, you'll know how many points you have. You'll also be able to quickly alert someone that your account has suspicious activity if you notice your points and miles slowly disappearing.

4. Watch out for phishers.

A phishing email is when a hacker sends an email to someone pretending to be a reputable company. They normally ask for information like your login credentials. Phishers will normally send these emails to people who have frequent flyer accounts but anyone is susceptible.

Never respond to an email that is  "trying to verify" any of your credentials, especially if you didn't prompt them. If you do receive an email like this, talk to the company that's being impersonated immediately.

5. Use your rewards.

I'm guilty of this myself. I love watching my business points and miles that I've earned stack up so I can use them on trips with my family. But sometimes, your desire for a better trip can make your account more interesting to a hacker.

I'm not saying you should aim to keep your account empty. But, as mentioned before, if you want to protect your points, you need to be mindful of every seemingly legitimate email sent to you and always monitor your account. The more points you have, the more frequently I'd monitor it.

Points and miles fraud is a growing type of identity fraud. While there's no way you can fight off a hacker when they've gotten into your account, you can and should do everything in your power to prevent them from causing any damage.

Published on: Apr 26, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.