Identity theft is the new watchword; hackers, thieves and criminals are continually discovering new methods to twist technology in an effort to steal personal information. Social media networks, cell phones, discarded utility bills and outright theft of personal property are all means employed by thieves to hijack your personal information.
Trustwave, a security and compliance company, provides security information services and end-to-end solutions for businesses in an effort to protect confidential information systems. A recent report shows that hotels are now the top source for credit card data theft, surpassing restaurants for the top spot; nearly 40% of all personal data in 2009 came from hotels/motels compared to just 13% of thefts from restaurants.
Hackers target hotel/motel booking and reservation centers due to the high-number of credit card numbers these entities keep "on-file." Like the Internet, once a credit card is in the system, it's available. A successful hacker can steal thousands of credit card numbers and, in essence, thousands--or millions--of dollars. Credit card numbers are used for numerous hotel services, such as bars, beaches, golf courses, swimming pools, gift shops, spas, and other recreational areas; however, they're all processed through one main database.
Since hotels use proprietary systems, they're easy for hackers to exploit: a computer system at one hotel is similar, if not exactly the same, as the computer system at a competing hotel.
The other unavoidable fact of hotels and motels are the number of employees who have access to the computer system and your personal data. According to an ABC News Report; "You have so many different employees going through the system that it allows them to either skim cards or put in malware that lets the bad guys hack into the system."
In June 2010, Destination Hotels & Resorts had its computer system hacked and the credit card data of more than 700 guests from across the country was stolen; in January, Wyndham reported that their computer systems were breached and hackers accessed information from 31 hotels between November 2009 and January 2o1o. They never reported how many cards were compromised.
Credit card companies usually don't require consumers to pay for unauthorized charges, but credit card users must report the theft in a timely manner to ensure their identity remains safe; the best method to is to check statements regularly and keep tabs on credit reports.