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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's called Snopes, people

Once again a local newspaper has published an e-mail hoax as a letter to the editor.  From the August 18 Citizens' Voice:

Protect your privacy from hotel room magnetic key

Editor:

Ever wonder what is on your magnetic key card when you stay in a hotel?

Answer:

A. Customer's name
B. Customer's partial home address
C. Hotel room number
D. Check-in date and out dates
E. Customer's credit card number and expiration date.

When you turn them in to the front desk your personal information is there for any employee to access by simply scanning the card in the hotel scanner. An employee can take a hand full of cards home and using a scanning device, access the information onto a laptop computer and go shopping at your expense.

Simply put, hotels do not erase the information on these cards until an employee reissues the card to the next hotel guest. At that time, the new guest's information is electronically overwritten on the card and the previous guest's information is erased in the overwriting process.

But until the card is rewritten for the next guest, it usually is kept in a drawer at the front desk with your information on it.

The bottom line is: Keep the cards, take them home with you, or destroy them. Never leave them behind in the room or room wastebasket, and never turn them into the front desk when you check out of a room. They will not charge you for the card (it's illegal) and you'll be sure you are not leaving a lot of valuable personal information on it that could be easily lifted off with any simple scanning device card reader.

For the same reason, if you arrive at the airport and discover you still have the card key in your pocket, do not toss it in an airport trash basket. Take it home and destroy it by cutting it up, especially through the electronic information strip.

Information courtesy of the Metropolitan Police Service.

(name deleted)

It takes five seconds to Google a line of text from these letters. And didn't the line "Information courtesy of the Metropolitan Police Service" set off any warning bells? Obviously not.

http://www.snopes.com/crime/warnings/hotelkey.asp

It's bad enough when gullible people pass along these emails to their friends. But it's much worse when a newspaper publishes letters like this, and the Fort Hood "Obama photo op," and the "twelve year old girl kills intruders with daddy's shotgun", and the rest, in its pages. Do a little fact-checking before you publish!

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