Have you received the latest email "alert" about protecting your old hotel key-cards from identity thieves? If so, you’re not alone. This urban legend resurfaces fairly regularly. I suspect that this one is popping up again as people begin making their holiday travel plans.

According to this legend, hotel key-cards have all sorts of private information encoded in the magnetic strip on the back of the card. The information allegedly includes your name, home address, hotel room number, check-in and check-out dates, credit card number, expiration date, etc. and claims to be based on an alert from the Pasadena Police Department.

While you certainly could fit all that information on the magnetic strip, no hotel actually does. For one thing, why would they bother? They already have all that data in their database. Why would they pay to put it on the card as well and take up the problem of fixing all the inevitable mistakes when the coding needs to be fixed? The hotel’s card only needs a serial number to control your room’s door. No personal information is recorded on the card.

These hoax emails end by encouraging you to "cut up the card". Don’t waste your time. Leave it for the hotel staff to reuse with a new customer.

For more information, see Snopes.com.

Leave a Reply