Hotel key cards being used for identity theft?-Fiction!

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

Summary of 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.

The 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