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How Credit Card Fraud Can Ruin Your Vacation

If you’re a tech savvy consumer, you probably know the do’s and don’t’s of safe surfing on the internet. Taking precautions like purchasing premium antivirus software and educating yourself about common online scams can help prevent identity theft. Yet, a recent study exposes a popular target for cybercriminals that might surprise even the most careful users. Can staying in a hotel put you at greater risk for fraud?

A recent report by TrustWave’s Spider Labs sheds light on a frightening statistic for frequent travelers: In 2009 hotel networks were hacked more than those of any other destination. Attacks on hotels accounted for 38% of all security breaches last year, which outnumbered both financial services industries (19%) and retail industries (14.5%). What’s even worse – it took an average of 156 days for the hotels to discover the attacks!

Hotel networks have become easy targets for hackers because they are relatively easy to breach and often, particularly in the case of smaller hotels, have limited IT staff to adequately maintain cybersecurity. By illegally tapping into a hotel network, a cybercriminal can gain access to all of the information collected on a credit card’s magnetic strip, including the name, card number, and expiration date.  Since these crimes are rarely detected immediately, the hacker has ample time to do major damage with the stolen data.

The Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has been a high-profile target of recent hacking attacks. Within the last year, Wyndham networks have been breached three times. During the most recent break-in, which occurred sometime between October 2009 and January 2010, a cybercriminal accessed guest information from a number of hotels managed by the company. While Wyndham did not acknowledge exactly how many customer cards were comprised, they stated that only a limited number of properties were affected by the breach. However, customers who feel that their information might have been comprised are encouraged to fill out an online form.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many measures travelers can take to prevent identity theft during hotel stays. The best way to protect yourself? After returning home, carefully monitor all credit card statements to check for fraudulent charges.

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