When staying at hotels, consumers should be aware that they are at heightened risk for identity theft.
According to the New York Times, a new study by data security consultants Trustwave found that 38 percent of all instances in which a credit card was hacked involved the hotel industry in some way, well ahead of most other major industries. The financial services industry accounted for 19 percent of all hacking, the retail industry made up 14.2 percent, and restaurants and bars comprised another 13 percent, the company said.
The Times report said that hackers attack hotels because they have the "richest vein of personal credit data." One expert told the paper that hotels don't do a great job of protecting their customers' personal financial information, and hackers have therefore identified the industry as an easy target. Most of the data breaches are the result of a failure to equip, store or transmit credit card data securely right from the point of sale.
The Times said that another problem is that while the hotel industry would like to be able to update its financial protection systems, many owners simply cannot afford to do so as a result of the economic recession. The safest technology requires not just good hardware, software and encryption programs, but also highly-trained staff to install and monitor these systems. With so many owners cutting back spending, this is one area where the industry has lagged.
Another twist added by these security problems is that, because of the hotels having insufficient security measures, it often takes a hotel months to discover that it has been attacked. The Times said that fraudsters prey on both this, and the fact that those who are frequently on the road are less likely to discover any discrepancies in their bills due to how busy they are with travel and work.
Several experts told the paper that once an identity has been compromised, hackers will make several small charges to validate a new card, probe its vulnerability and test the cardholder's vigilance before making a larger purchase.
A report in the Sacramento Bee said that another problem for consumers is that they are more vulnerable to fraud while traveling because they're using credit and debit cards more often, carrying more personal information, visiting unfamiliar places, and talking to more strangers.