â€œData security is becoming an issue of significant importance in the hospitality industry…(because of) an increase in hacks and malware attacks, which frequently target hotel systems because theyâ€™re a rich source of personal information…Â hackers arenâ€™t just targeting data on hotel systems but also the information passed along to reservations systems…credit card theft is much easier â€” and more likely â€” through large-scale hacking…another reason hotel guests are vulnerable to having their personal information stolen: Theyâ€™re easily distracted.”
Several days after Traci Fox visited a small independent resort in the Catskill Mountains, she received an unexpected call from a shoe store. Where did she want it to ship the $400 worth of pricey sneakers that sheâ€™d ordered?
Fox believes that her hotel may have compromised her credit card information. At least one government agency shares her concerns. Last summer, the Federal Trade Commission sued Wyndham Hotels, alleging that the company had failed to protect its customersâ€™ personal information. As a result, the FTC claims, hundreds of thousands of credit card numbers fell into the wrong hands, leading to millions of dollars in fraud-related losses. Wyndham denies any wrongdoing and is fighting the suit.
The problem may run deeper than the theft of credit card numbers, however.
The personally identifiable information in your guest profile, such as your home address, your license plate number and your date of birth, which is attached to your reservation, can end up in the hands of a third party that offers little or no warranties about how it will protect your data. â€œThese kinds of areas are more worrisome than some huge Visa bill,â€ says hotel consultant Marion Roger. â€œOnce your identity has been cloned, you can easily spend years and hundreds of thousands in legal and other fees.â€