Hospitality Sector Proves Welcoming to Thieves

Jeanette here from the AllClear ID team.  If you have an upcoming stay at a hotel or bed and breakfast, be aware of the possible risk to your information.  The findings of Trustwave’s Global Security Report 2010 revealed glaring security lapses in the hospitality sector.  Of security breaches throughout 2009, thirty-eight percent occurred at hotels and motels, which is more than the combined total of breaches in the food service industry and at financial institutions.

Hotels are not the first place you expect a cyber-criminal to attack, but identity thieves are ingenious at finding the path of least resistance.  The sheer number of credit card transactions occurring each day through the network infrastructure of an international hotel chain are staggering, and therefore tempting.  Many hotels require a reservation to be held with a credit card, and the bill is then usually charged to the same card by default at check-out.  Cash is cumbersome to carry and keep track of while traveling, and hotel bills can add up quickly, increasing the odds that a guest will opt to use plastic.

To protect yourself, start by taking only two credit—not debit—cards with you.  It is easier to recover from a fraudulent charge made to your credit card, and often, the card company will not hold you liable.  If a thief captures your checking account information, they have instant, calamitous access to your cash.  Try to use only one credit card for all purchases during your vacation; keep the other as an emergency back-up.  Having all of your transactions recorded in one place makes it easier to monitor your account for fraudulent charges.  Be diligent about accessing your credit card account online through a secure network each day that you are on vacation, and continue to monitor that card carefully for a few months after you return home.  Thieves will often test the validity of the card with a small purchase before moving on to a large one, so a charge for a coffee you don’t remember buying could be the first sign of trouble.  You should also keep all of your receipts in case you need to verify something on your statement.

As the hospitality industry becomes more aware of its vulnerabilities, it is responding by implementing best practices that comply with international security standards; however, cyber-criminals also continue to evolve, developing innovative tactics to circumvent new barriers put in place.  It is important that travelers do not become complacent even as the industry moves forward.

By continuing to practice vigilant travel habits and reporting questionable charges to your credit card company as soon as possible, you can play a substantial role in protecting yourself.