Websites that appear identical to the one used for the Aeroplan rewards program are swindling some Canadians out of their hard-earned points, experts say.

The scam is not a new one, but it has resurfaced recently with multiple reports of victims in Atlantic Canada.

By spoofing the actual Aeroplan site, the scammers are able to get their victims to unknowingly turn over their account information. That information can then be used to make purchases on the victims’ accounts, and the purchased items can be resold elsewhere.

“All you have to do is click a button and then it takes you to a website that also looks very much like Aeroplan,” says Ross Simmonds, a Halifax-based social media expert. “Once you log in, that information goes into a spreadsheet. Once they have that information, it’s pretty much checkmate from there.”

Aeroplan customers recently received an email from the company alerting them to the danger and warning them to delete any unsolicited emails seeming to come from Aeroplan or Air Canada with the subject line “Aeroplan Reward – Electronic Ticket Itinerary/Receipt,” “Your order # approved” or “Your order # processed.”

“Do not respond and do not click on any links or open attachments contained within the email,” the warning reads.

Simmonds says people should also watch website addresses closely, looking for extra characters or letters that are slightly different from what the company actually uses.

“That’s where you can start to figure out whether it was real or fake,” he says.

An Aeroplan spokesperson says phishing scams are not the only way intruders can gain access to individual accounts, with weak and reused passwords also occasionally contributing factors.

“Protection of member information is our highest priority at Aeroplan and we have security measures in place to protect customers,” Christa Poole, a senior manager with the company, said in a statement.

Aeroplan says it never requires its members to divulge personal or account information in an email.

For its part, Air Canada says it is helping to ensure that any Aeroplan customers who fall victim to the scam do not lose their accrued reward points.

“We are working closely with Aeroplan to ensure that booked reward tickets are cancelled and that miles are returned to member accounts,” the company said.

The airline noted that the scam is not unique to Aeroplan, as loyalty and reward programs around the world have faced similar issues.

A 2017 report estimated that Aeroplan accounts contained $16 billion worth of unredeemed points. Experts say that sort of idle money is typical of loyalty programs, and likely explains the scammers’ motivation.

With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko