Hackers steal payment data from Sheraton, Westin, other hotel customers


Another day, another data breach. This time involving Starwood Hotels and Resorts, a company that owns nearly a dozen hotel brands.

What consumers should know about the breach

Starwood says more than 50 of its locations were hit by a malware attack on point-of-sale systems, which are used to process customers’ payment information.

According to CNET, the attack could affect anyone who stayed at a Sheraton, Westin or other Starwood hotel in the U.S. or Canada at anytime over the past year.

Read more: 13 ways you may be exposing yourself to fraud

The company said the malware was installed at gift shops, restaurants and other locations across the more than 50 locations — giving hackers access to customers’ credit and debit card data, including the cardholder’s name, card number, security code and expiration date.

According to a statement released by the company, the malware has been removed and Starwood has ‘implemented additional security measures to help prevent this type of crime from reoccurring.’ The company also said there’s no indication that its guest reservation or preferred-guest membership systems were affected by the breach, and at this point, there’s no evidence that customer PINs or contact information were stolen.

To see a list of the hotels affected, click here. The earliest breach listed occurred in November 2014, while the latest happened in March of this year.

If you think you may be a victim of the breach, you can get more information from the company here.

Read more: 9 places to never use a debit card


How to protect yourself from hackers

To avoid falling victim to breaches like this one, and any other type of data attack, here are a few tips to protect you and your wallet:

  • Check your bank statements daily: This not only allows you to keep up with your purchases and current balance, but also allows you to check for any transactions that don’t look familiar. Here’s more on why you should be checking every day.

  • Never pay with a debit card: Credit cards offer much more protection than debit cards. If your debit card information is stolen, and in result, your checking account is emptied, you could end up out of luck and never see that money again. Here’s more on the hidden dangers of debit cards.

  • Frequently monitor and/or freeze your credit: A great way to avoid identity theft is to use services that monitor and secure your credit. But don’t use companies that require huge fees, because they’re often over-hyped and you can get the same services for free or at a much cheaper price. Credit monitoring essentially puts fraud alerts on your credit files with the 3 main credit bureaus. These alerts are meant to raise a flag to potential creditors, alerting them to carefully verify an applicant’s identity before extending credit. You can get free credit monitoring through CreditKarma.com. An even safer option is to do a credit freeze. A credit freeze allows you to seal your credit reports so no new applications for credit can be initiated in your name without your knowledge. When you do a credit freeze with the 3 main credit bureaus, you get a PIN that only you know. Freezing your credit files has no impact whatsoever on your existing lines of credit, such as credit cards. You can continue to use them as you regularly would even when your credit is frozen. Here’s more on how and why you should freeze your credit.

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