Credit Card Fraud Widespread in Hotels
By: Brian O'Connell

Next time you check in to a hotel, watch your wallet.

In a 2010 study measuring 218 data breaches in 24 countries, data security firm SpiderLabs linked 38% of all corporate network security breaches to the hotel industry. The financial services industry was next in line with 19% of all network security breaches, followed by the retail (14%) and food and beverage (12%) sectors.

The New York Times also reported network hackers breached security gates at Destination Hotels and Resorts and Wyndham Hotels (Stock Quote: WYN), making off with up to $3,000 from each of 700 compromised credit cards.

Nicholas Percoco, senior vice president of SpiderLabs, says a staggering 98% of all network breach targets are credit and debit card data. Cyber-hackers target card data because the data are so simple “to turn into cash quickly.” Our advice? Watch where you stay.

What can you do to reduce the chances of being a credit fraud victim the next time you travel?

You can start by checking with your hotel before you hit the road. There’s no need to spend a lot of time doing so, or in giving hotels the third degree. Just ask about their track record of card security performance and whether or not there have been any break-ins. Of particular concern should be network access vulnerabilities. SpiderLabs points out that 90% of all breaches broke in through default or weak passwords. Again, just some reassurance that your card info is stored safely is what you want.

While you’re traveling, keep a close eye on your credit card statements — you can do so electronically via a smartphone application or through a computer in the hotel's business suite.

Another good idea is to keep a separate credit card with a low credit limit and use that strictly for hotel use. That way, if your card is compromised, the damage can be minimized.

Using a credit card to pay for your hotel stay should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, breaking into some hotels' software systems is a no-brainer for cyber-thieves.

Your takeaway? When it comes to hotel software security, it’s OK to trust, but it’s better to verify.

—For more ways to save, spend, invest and borrow, visit MainStreet.com.

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