The next time that you stay in a hotel, your room might end up costing you more than you originally anticipated. At one time, a restaurant was the number one hot spot for stolen credit card data. However, recently, it appears that the number one spot is now owned by hotels.
Booking centers and hotels seem to be the prime targets, these days. A reservation center can have literally thousands of client’s credit cards in their files. Just one successful theft can yield quite a number of fraudulent shopping sprees. The charges for these illegal activities can show up anywhere from several hours to a few weeks, after the victims have made reservations. Unfortunately, this problem is not just limited to small hotels.
Robert J. McCullen, CEO of Trustwave, stated that the problem goes all the way to the top hotel brands. Trustwave is a company that is hired by merchant and hotel owners to provide protection for their systems. Trustwave released a recent report which indicated that 38% of all identity theft data breaches came from hotels, in 2009. In contrast, restaurants only accounted for 13%. This significant increase has come about in only the last 18 months.
There are several speculated reasons for the rise in hotel identity theft popularity. One reason has to do with the number of different internal hotel locations a credit card can be used. In a hotel, the danger is not just at the front desk. Credit cards can also be used in spas, gift shops, hotel restaurants and pool bars. All of these locations are directly tied to a centralized computer location. Additionally, there are only a few vendors that provide credit card software and equipment for reading credit cards.
All that a hacker needs to do is to figure out how one major system operates. Once this is accomplished, then the hacker can use the same hacking techniques to break into the systems of other hotels. For example, if a hacker compromises the system at a Salt Lake City Marriott, they might be able to hack into a Marriott in New York, as well. Or if a Sheraton system is hacked, the same procedure may be used at a Westins. This is because both are part of the same hotel parent company (Starwood Hotels).
Hotels are doing more to combat the threat of credit card fraud. But there are some things that a consumer can do to help, as well. For example, it’s important to understand that online use of credit cards always entails an element of risk. This means that you should secure your card’s details through the use of strong passwords. You should also change your passwords often. Make sure that you only use your credit card in locations that appear secure and credible. You should also look for credit card security verification signage.
Beyond that, a consumer should know that credit card companies don’t hold the card owners responsible for fraudulent charges. This is as long as the fraud is reported to the credit card company in a timely manner.
Although, in some cases, it could take months for bogus charged to start appearing, once the card information has been stolen. The best plan of action is to check your credit statements regularly for suspicious charges. In many cases, identity thieves are patient enough to wait for relatively long periods of time before running up charges.