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Another Data Breach This Time a Hotel, How to Protect Yourself

Data breaches continue, and we have consistently beaten the drum that one of the best ways to avoid becoming a victim of one is to spend cash instead of using plastic. But there are times you have no choice.

When you check into a hotel or rent a car you are required to present a credit card as security. This reality is troubling in light of the news that a single hotel in Houston reported it had been the victim of a data breach that potentially affected about 10,000 customers. There are a few important things to remember and to do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim yourself.

The Houston Chronicle reported that data from the Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa had been compromised by what the hotel called a “malicious software attack.” One of the troubling elements about the attack is that unlike the data breaches on national chains, like the one that hit Target within the last year, the Houstonian is a local company.

A data security expert quoted in the Chronicle article said hotels are attractive targets to data thieves, because corporate customers with high-limit credit cards are frequent guests. Knowing that your data could be compromised even if you are not someone with a corporate account should give you reason to do a few things to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.

  1. Monitor your credit card accounts regularly. It’s easy for many of you to put off doing this, because you make your payments automatically. Nonetheless it is always wise to check your bill. You might find something else there that’s costing you unnecessary money anyway.
  2. Limit your credit spending to one card, if possible. If you travel frequently for your work it’s best to use just one card. That makes it easier for you to monitor what is being spent, because you only have one place to look. It won’t be possible for some people who don’t have the typical higher credit allowance, but if you can do it you will make it easier to check the accuracy of your bill.
  3. Report discrepancies quickly. If you doubt or question whether you spent what’s on your bill, it’s best to get clarity as soon as possible. In the process you might come to agree that the expense is legitimate, but if you wait too long it will be harder for you to justify removal of a charge.

These are just a few ways to make sure you or your company is not being charged more than you should be. Another piece of advice is to monitor your credit card spending even when you are not spending anything. It can take a while from when your card number is stolen to when it gets used. Don’t let too much time off the road be an excuse for you to exercise less diligence. 

Published Jul 16, 2014.