It seems like a host of scams and fraud schemes have resurfaced in the past month. According to this New York Times article (free registration required), 38% of credit card hacking cases last year involved the hotel industry:
“Why hotels? Well, to paraphrase the bank robber Willie Sutton, hackers hit hotels because that is where the richest vein of personal credit card data is. At hotels with inadequate data security, ‘the greatest amount of credit card information can be obtained using the most simplified methods,’ said Anthony C. Roman, a private security investigator with extensive experience in the hotel industry.
The sophistication of such systems can vary widely from one hotel to the next, even within the same corporate chain, making it an easy route for hackers.”
A June 29th report from the Columbus, WI Police Department tells of a new twist on the wire fraud scam. A person claiming to be a representative of the local sherrif’s department called two separate restaurants advised management that one of their restaurant employees was in custody for operating while intoxicated and needed to be bailed out. It was requested that the restaurant wire $800 to a bail bondsman in Georgia, and upon reciept of the money, the employee could be picked up from jail. The caller was even able to give the name of a restaurnat employee that was “in custody” and identified himself in one of the calls with the last name of Davis. One of the calls resulted in an $800 wire transfer and the scam was not detected until the restaurant attempted to locate their employee in jail. Heard of a similar phone scam in your area? Notify Lt. Dennis Weiner of the Columbus Police Department at 920/623-6046.
Have you encountered strange phone calls trying to scam you or your property out of money? Any that were particularly convincing? We want to hear about them – share your stories in the comments section. The more people who know about new or seemingly legitimate scams, the less who will fall victim to them.
Local reports of credit card fraud include a problem specific to properties that utilize satellite transponders to communicate credit card transactions. According to Tom Haase of SaleSynergy, only about 1% of lodging properties use transponders, so the threat isn’t huge – an overwhelming majority of business utilize “hardline” processing, which transmits the data securely over a phone line.
Scammers will locate the transponder on the side of a building or mounted to the ground, cover it with aluminum foil and then enter the business and attempt to use fraudulent credit cards to make purchases. Since the aluminum foil has interrupted the satellite communication, the scammer may be able to make a purchase and exit the business before the business is able to determine that the credit card communicaiton system is down.
“Keep in mind this is not a scenario where we are talking about hacking into secur, PCI-compliant storage,” Haase said, “but rather stealing card numbers one or two at a time.”
The Wisconsin Division of Trade & Consumer Protection has identified additional electronic and telephone-related scams. In the “stranded friend online scam,” a Facebook friend may send you a message or leave you a note on your wall saying they are overseas and in need of quick cash. The FBI has seen numerous reports of social networking accounts being compromised and used to convince “friends” to wire money overseas. The amount of money scammed in this kind of online fraud doubled in 2009 to $560 million. Family of WH&LA staff has even been a target of this kind of scam perpetrated via telephone – someone calls claiming to be “your grandson” or “your nephew” and hopes you offer up some names – “Andy, is that you?” From there the scammer will relay a story about being overseas, in a car accident with a broken cell phone – and in really desperate need of money. The entire scenario can happen very quickly, and before you can think to call around and see if your nephew or godson or granddaughter is really overseas, you could be out hundreds of dollars.