Key Card Identity Theft?
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Hotel Room Keys Have Your Personal Information on Them Including Credit Card Numbers-Fiction!

 

 

 

bulletSummary of the eRumor
A warning that key cards issued to hotel or motel guests as room keys are being used for identity theft.
The story says that Southern California Law Enforcement professionals discovered that some hotel room keys include the guest's name, credit card information, and other data that could be used for identity theft.
bulletThe Truth
Hotels and resorts are increasingly issuing credit card-looking "key cards" to guests instead of traditional metal keys for use in opening the doors to guest rooms. That's increased security for guests since metal keys could be easily duplicated and most of them had the number of the room stamped on them making it easy for a stolen or lost key to be used for entry. The key cards do not have any visible indication of what room they open.  They also have a magnetic strip on the back that can be programmed, for example, with the dates that the guest is going to use the room so that the key cannot be used after that unless it is programmed with fresh information.

Do hotel key cards have guests' personal information on them?  We surveyed several major hotels in California, Nevada, and Florida and the consensus was emphatic:  No hotel key cards have any personal information on them, not even the guest's name.  There are some hotels, such as the Hard Rock and Portofino Hotels in Orlando, Florida, that have allow key cards to be used for purchases, but there is no identifying information on the key card. The purchases are billed to the room number and added to the guests hotel charges.

One fraud detective we talked with said the eRumor may have been prompted by a police case from Southern California where investigators broke up a group of foreign credit card crooks. They had a large number of stolen key cards from a particular hotel.  The police decided to scan them to see what was on them and they found credit card debit card numbers, not hotel room information.  The reason, according to the detective, is that the crooks can use a credit card scanning device to steal credit and debit card information, program it on to a hotel key card and use it just like the original card.  He said that there was a case in Fresno where a member of a foreign credit card fraud gang was an employee at a gas station.
He had made a device that would scan customers' credit and debit card info on to a hotel key card at the same time that the card was being used for a purchase.

A few months after the eRumor started circulating in 2003, we began getting inquiries about information said to have come from the Pasadena, California police department about the risk of key cards. The Pasadena police department issued a press release saying that there had been concerns expressed by a detective and his comments got circulated by various individuals before the issue was completely investigated.  The release confirms that Pasadena detectives contacted several large hotels and computer companies using key card technology who confirmed that the key cards are not programmed with personal information and does not have credit card numbers on them.

Last updated 2/28/07
A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

Version #1 

Subject: ID THEFT ATTACHMENT

Although room keys differ from hotel to hotel, a key obtained from the
"Double Tree" chain that was being used for a regional Identity Theft
Presentation was found to contain the following the information:

* Customers (your) name
* Customers partial home address
* Hotel room number
* Check in date and check out date
* Customers (your) credit card number and expiration date!

When you turn them in to the front desk your personal information is
there
for any employee to access by simply scanning the card in the hotel
scanner.
An employee can take a hand full of cards home and using a scanning
device,
access the information onto a laptop computer and go shopping at your
expense.

Simply put, hotels do not erase these cards until an employee issues
the
card to the next hotel guest. It is usually kept in a drawer at the
front
desk with YOUR INFORMATION ON IT!!!!

The bottom line is, keep the cards or destroy them! NEVER leave them
behind
and NEVER turn them in to the front desk when you check out of a room.
They
will not charge you for the card.


Version #2

You know how when you check out of a hotel that uses the credit-card-type room key, the clerk often will ask if you have your key(s) to turn in...or there is a box or slot on the Reception counter in which to put them? It's good for the hotel because they save money by re-using those cards. But, it's not good for you, as revealed below.

From the CaliforniaBureau of Investigation:

"Southern Californialaw enforcement professionals assigned to detect new threats to personal security issues, recently discovered what type of information is embedded in the credit card type hotel room keys used throughout the industry.

Although room keys differ from hotel to hotel, a key obtained from a well known hotel chain that was being used for a regional Identity Theft Presentation was found to contain the following the information:

a.. Customers (your) name
b.. Customers partial home address
c.. Hotel room number
d.. Check in date and check out date
e.. Customer's (your) credit card number and expiration date!

When you turn them in to the front desk your personal information is there for any employee to access by simply scanning the card in the hotel scanner

An employee can take a hand full of cards home and using a scanning device, access the information onto a laptop computer and go shopping at your expense.

Simply put, hotels do not erase the information on these cards until an employee re-issues the card to the next hotel guest. At that time, the new guest's information is electronically "overwritten" on the card
and the previous guest's information is erased in the overwriting process. But until the card is rewritten for the next guest, it usually is kept in a drawer at the front desk with YOUR INFORMATION ON IT!!!!

The bottom line is: Keep the cards, take them home with you, or destroy them. NEVER leave them behind in the room or room wastebasket, and NEVER turn them in to the front desk when you check out of a room. They will not charge you for the card (it's illegal) and you'll be sure you are not leaving a
lot of valuable personal information on it that could be easily lifted off with any simple scanning device card reader.

For the same reason, if you arrive at the airport and discover you still have the card key in your pocket, do not toss it in an airport trash basket. Take it home and destroy it by cutting it up, especially through the electronic information strip!

Information courtesy of:
Pasadena Police Department
SEND TO ANYONE YOU WOULD LIKE TO HELP -

 

 

 


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