Are hotels storing personal info on key cards?

7 On Your Side
July 30, 2008 8:05:22 PM PDT
The Internet is buzzing with concern over the electronic room keys used at hotels and the information that's contained on their magnetic strips. There's more on there than you might think.

There's an e-mail going around that says when checking into a hotel you are putting your personal information at risk.

"Do you know the secret behind your hotel key card?" reads the e-mail. It then answers by saying the key card's magnetic strip contains the following:

  • 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

And giving the e-mail credence, a line that says information is courtesy of the Pasadena Police Department.

"It's not really a myth and that's probably what has fed the fury in this. However, the panic that I have seen associated with the e-mail as its reverberated back to me is completely unwarranted," says Janet Pope with the Pasadena Police Department.

Five years ago, a detective there did voice concern, and that's when we first spoke with Janet.

"We have no way to verify what is captured and what's not," says Pope.

As it turns out, the magnetic strips only have the room number and check-in and check-out dates, and those are usually coded.

So this e-mail isn't exactly an urban myth. More information could be put on a hotel card key, but it's just that over the past five years we're unaware of this ever happening.


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