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Five Ways Your Safety at Hotels Can Be Compromised

March 29, 2010 at 2:36 PM | by | Comment (1)

There are certain, reasonable expectations we have when paying for a hotel room, such as a good night's sleep, clean sheets, decent water pressure and the assurance that no one is going to break into our hotel room and make off with our iPods, laptops, wallets or jewelry. But we've seen Ocean's 11 and 12 and we know how crafty thieves can be when they want something from your hotel room.

Recently, we've noticed a rash of hotel security breakdowns from thieves robbing sugar barons in Los Angeles to hackers stealing guests' personal information to someone making off with one of our iPods in Vegas. This is all unsettling because hotel rooms are supposed to be your sanctuary and also because, um, you're paying for that room.

Now, we're not saying that you will be a victim of crime whenever you stay at a hotel but it can happen whether you're in a roadside hotel or a five-start hotel in Beverly Hills. Here are Five Ways Your Safety at Hotels Can Be Compromised and five things you can do to protect yourself. Got your own hotel safety tips? Put 'em in comments below.

1. THE HOTEL ROOM DOOR
This video demonstrates how a crafty, flexible and patient thief could potentially unlock the door to your room using a metal hanger. The fact that a wire hanger could open your hotel room door from the inside is astonishing. But we think this type of break-in is extremely high-risk for the thief. Even with lots of practice, the thief might not get the door open on the first try. Which means he or she will have to be ok with writhing on the hallway floor in bright lighting, praying that no one comes down the hallway...and that hotel doesn't have security cameras on every floor.

What you can do: In case you are worried that someone is going to risk the hanger trick on your room, this video suggests simply placing a towel in front of the door on the floor, thus blocking the hanger from poking through.

2. THE IN-ROOM SAFE
The in-room safe has always been problematic for hotel guests. Guests hate when hotels don't have them, guests hate when hotels charge for them and guests hate when they aren't big enough to accommodate their laptops. But more often than guest gripes, in-room safes have been mocked for being incredibly easy to break open. This video is just one example of an instructional video for breaking open safes using a paper clip.

What you can do: Obviously, you can avoid placing items in the in-room safe if you're concerned about theft. You can also buy your own portable travel safe which you can hook up to a stationary item in the hotel room like the bed. Regarding bigger items like your laptop, you can invest in laptop lojacks. Lastly, some hotels have their own safety deposit boxes at the front desk that you can use during your stay for a fee.

3. THE SAFETY LATCH
This type of break-in scared the bejesus out of us because we consider the safety latch to be extremely important to our safety, especially from the pesky housekeeping and mini-bar staff. But it seems as if thieves cam use this special tool to break through the safety latch and into your room.

What you can do: Make sure you are locking all the locks on your hotel room door, not just the safety latch. Also, if someone is doing this to your hotel room, they must really be after you for something. Consider a less public hideout instead.

4. THE GUEST DATABASE
Hotel guest databases are extremely easy to hack as we learned the other week when Wyndham Hotels had their guests' personal info breached for the second time in a few years. But it's not just Wyndham this is happening too as several hotel chains have had their guest information compromised.

What you can do: The big hotel chains are often the target for hacking because it can take months before they even realize they've been hacked. Also, most of the hotels are essentially franchise businesses which keep different systems for storing guest information making them more susceptible to hacks. So this could be a good reason to patronize smaller, independent hotels instead. But if you're married to a hotel brand because of loyalty points, this may not be a feasible option. Then you might want to consider an identity theft protection service.

5. THE PEEPHOLE
Ever since ESPN reporter Erin Andrews made the news last year after a stalker filmed her undressing through her hotel room peephole, people have been freaked out about more peeping Toms. (Ok, maybe it's just us.) Even though the chances of peephole crime during your hotel stay are extremely low, there are simple things you can do to protect yourself.

What you can do: Give the peephole a good look when you get into your hotel room to make sure there's nothing unusual about it. If you're still worried, you can place a piece of dark tape over the peephole just in case. If you're still worried, you can take a chance on ordering something called the Peeper Stopper. But just because you have the peephole covered doesn't mean there isn't a secret camera somewhere in the bathroom. So um, just try to stay covered up ok?

Share your own tips for staying safe in hotels in comments below!

[Photo of credit cards: Andres Rueda]

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Peephole Tampering

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