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Home Away from Home?: Identity Theft and Hotels

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Whether travel is for business or pleasure, travelers must be on the alert for opportunities that identity thieves may try to take advantage of in any given situation. Unfortunately you cannot trust anyone you meet (housekeeping staff, bellmen, security guards, front desk clerks, etc) with your personal information. While your hotel should be a place to offer refuge from the hustle and bustle of travel, it can also be a breeding ground for identity theft. Following the tips below can help keep your identity safe while on the road:

Internet Service: Most hotels offer some sort of Internet access within their facilities. This may be in the form of free Wi-Fi for guests, paid Wi-Fi or a business center with computer access. Each of these options presents different problems which may lead to identity theft. Travelers must realize that when they are using a Wi-Fi network in a hotel, even if it is password protected, they are sharing that network with everyone else in the hotel. Hackers can access a Wi-Fi network and see what users are doing and even pull personal information or install malware.

Use a VPN – always: Especially while traveling in urban areas and internationally, use a virtual private network (VPN) when using public and secure Wi-Fi. It’s very common for hackers to use “sniffing” techniques and software to tap into the passwords, credit card numbers and account numbers you may enter into your mobile device or laptop. A VPN is a simple app that will secure your online connection with the press of a button.

Secure Your Digital Documents: Sometimes important documents you may need during your travels might not make it to your hotel. Luggage, wallets and purses may be lost or stolen. Storing precious documents like financial and medical records, travel itineraries, visas and more in a secure cloud helps eliminate the worry of a criminal stealing this information. When you need to access the information, you can access it from any mobile device or the computer in the hotel business center.

Physical security

Hotel Safes: ITRC highly recommends that you lock up all valuables in room safes or hotel safes while you are out of your room. That includes laptops, PDA’s, jewelry, passports and other documents that contain personal identifying information or that would be of interest to a thief. A suitcase is not a secure way to lock up information.

Be aware of your surroundings: Hotel lobbies are areas of high traffic and usually full of frantic activity. It is easy to be unaware that someone is standing behind you “shoulder surfing” and listening to your conversation. These conversations may include information such as credit card numbers or reservation conformations. Try to step away from the hustle and bustle of the lobby when speaking of personal issues or giving information.

Using your credit cards to purchase items or meals: Some of the best restaurants in the world can be found in hotels. Travelers need to be aware that when eating at any restaurant, especially if they are in a location where they will not be accessible to fraud alerts should fraud occur. Restaurants are a perfect place for identity thieves to use card skimming techniques to capture credit card information. Waiters are able to collect this information in the time it takes for them to take your card, walk to the area where cards are charged and back to a diner’s table. Travelers should always keep their credit cards in sight even when they are out of their wallets.

Data Breaches: These days it isn’t enough for travelers to just watch out for themselves. Even if they follow every tip in the book to avoid identity theft, they may still become a victim of the dreaded data breach. Data Breaches have taken a front seat this year in the public’s awareness due to the frequency and size of recent breaches. Hotels are prime targets for data breaches because information from travelers’ emails to their credit card number can be gathered and exploited. While there is no protection against being part of a data breach, travelers can protect themselves by being vigilant of phishing attacks and maintaining identity theft protection that includes identity monitoring and alerts, identity theft insurance and assistance to restore your identity if you need it.

So while that annoying dripping faucet isn’t the worst thing you face while checking into a hotel while traveling, you can be vigilant using the above guidelines. Simply because of the high level of traffic and stress in a hotel environment, they will remain attractive targets for identity thieves and travelers will continue to need to take precautions.

Guard Street provides a service called Traveler Secure that allow travelers to protect their data worldwide with a VPN, travel vault and identity theft protection if and when you need it. Having this protection in place before you travel is important and you can use it throughout the year since identity theft issues may occur after a trip. The Traveler Secure service is available through www.guardstreet.com.