Tuesday, June 18 2013, 09:14 AM MDT
I.D. Thieves Target Hotel Room Guests
By: Matt Gephardt
Edited by Ryan Malavolta
Photography by Jay Hancock, Brian Morris, and Matt Michela
(KUTV) When he isn't guaranteeing our weather, 2News Meteorologist Sterling Poulson is board member Sterling Poulson. Sterling sits on the board of directors for the Clark Planetarium. It was at a fundraiser for the planetarium several months ago where this story begins. Sterling won a silent auction gift basket that included a gift certificate for a night's stay at the Hyatt Place in Salt Lake City.
"My wife said, ‘That'd be a great place for us to go for our anniversary,’" Sterling said.
In January, Sterling and his wife cashed in the certificate but as they were settling in for the night, Sterling says something strange happened: the phone in his room began ringing. When Sterling answered the caller identified himself as calling from the front desk.
“He said, well we had one little problem. We ran your card when you checked in but we need to re-run it again. But to save you having to come down, why don't you just give me the number," Sterling said.
Sterling said the caller sounded legit, after all, he had been asked to give a credit card when he checked in to cover incidentals.
"[The caller] spoke very well, and was clear and concise.”
But Sterling says something didn't seem right so he headed for the front desk. It's a good thing he did. Face to face with the man at the front desk, Sterling was informed that it was not the hotel that had rung his room. The call was from an identity thief that had gotten through to Sterling's room.
At their corporate level, Hyatt is aware of the scam. In a statement they write, "Our guests' security and privacy is a top priority. We require incoming callers to correctly identify the first and last name of a registered guest before being transferred to a guest room. Hotel staff will never ask for credit card or identity information via phone, and we encourage guests to come down to the front desk in person should they receive a suspicious phone call."
This is not a scam unique to Hyatt hotels. Get Gephardt spoke to the managers of several hotels in Utah and every one of them said they have heard of this scam and a few managers said they think it's a scam that is growing. But all of the managers also said that they are doing their best to try and stop it. In some hotels, like the Hyatt Place, they require incoming callers to correctly identify the name of a registered guest before being transferred to the room. Other hotels have placed signs in the rooms warning that if a call comes from the front desk it's probably a fraud.
By typing, "hotel room phone scam," into google.com, hundreds of blogs and other websites pop up with people saying they were fooled and defrauded by a scammer that called their hotel room pretending to be the front desk and asking for credit card information.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)