Hotels: the New Hotspot for Identity Theft

If you feel like you are being target for identity theft, you might want to look into the hotels you checked into. A new study by Trustwave, a company that is hired by hotels and other merchants to protect their systems, shows that hotels have now surpassed restaurants for the top spot where your credit card data is most likely to be stolen. 38% of all data breaches in 2009 came from hotels, compared to restaurants, once the leader, that now account for just 13% of the thefts.

Hackers are targeting hotels and their booking centers the most now, as the reservation centers usually have thousands of credit card numbers on file and one successful break-in can net the hacker hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Hackers also prefer to target hotels because credit card information is not only used to check-in, but throughout the hotel in places like the golf course, the restaurants, the spa, the gift shop, the pool bar, and are all processed through one central computer system.

These central computer systems are usually designed in the same, or very similar way, so once the hackers figure out how one system works, they take a “cookie cutter” approach to breaking into every hotel that has it.

Aside from hackers breaking into the central system through the Internet, there is also the risk that because there are so many employees with access to the company computers, one of them might install information stealing malware on the system, or might even skim the credit cards themselves.

So what can you do to protect yourself if you have recently checked in or are planning to check in at a hotel?

Get a copy of your room bill, and hold on to it for 30 days to make sure you don’t get charged for anything extra. Also check your credit card statements carefully to ensure no fraudulent charges were placed, and make sure to frequently check them online.

Since credit card companies don’t hold customers responsible for such charges as long as they are reported in a timely manner, making sure you catch them in time is your only real responsibility here.

(Via ABC News)

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