Washington State

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Bob Ferguson

The Puget Sound Business Journal reported that scammers somehow hacked the phone system at a Seattle hotel in an effort to obtain credit card numbers. Reports out of Texas prove this isn't an isolated incident.

From the PSBJ report:

The calls came at 4 a.m. last Wednesday, waking up 15 guests at the Hilton hotel in downtown Seattle.

“This is the front desk,” the caller said, according to one guest’s recollection.

“We don’t want to alarm you, but we’re going through the process of closing out our books for the night, and your credit card is coming up as invalid. We need you to bring it down to the front desk.”

The caller then paused, as if waiting for the guests to digest this news.

“If you prefer, we can do it over the phone.”

The unusual scam prompted the Washington Lodging Association to warn its hundreds of members. According to the alert, “The caller hacked into the system by dialing to a direct extension and when the extension was forwarded to voicemail the caller hit the * (transfer) key and input a random room number. … The hotel was able to reprogram their phone system to prevent this from happening again, and we strongly recommend working with your phone service provider to take any necessary steps to protect against this type of scam.”

The association isn’t aware of any other hotels being targeted, the newspaper reported. But the Hilton Garden Inn in Dallas was targeted around the same time, prompting the Better Business Bureau to alert businesses in that area.

Snopes.com reports that e-mails warning of similar schemes -- in which the caller either asks to be connected to a room or reaches a guest by direct-dialing from within the hotel -- have been circulating on the Internet since 2008. But this is the first time I've heard of hotel phone systems being hacked.

If you get a call like this while staying a hotel, don't give your credit card number over the phone. Instead, go to the front desk and ask if there was a problem.


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