White Lodging Services Corporation, which is a company that manages 168 hotel franchises including Marriott, Hilton and Starwood hotels in 21 states has become the latest company to disclose that its data including credit and debit card numbers of its customers has been hacked and the data is in the possession of identity thieves. Similar to the recent hacking and data breach that occurred at the retail crafts chain, Michaels, the breach was discovered , not by the company itself, but by major banks that noticed the fraudulent use of credit cards and debit cards and were able to trace the source to a hacking of White Lodging. Initially it appears that the hacking may have happened between March of 2013 and the end of December 2013. Once again, this illustrates that the security measures being used by many companies to protect our sensitive data is not up to the task. It also again reminds us that regardless of how careful you are in protecting the privacy of your personal financial data, such as credit card numbers, you are only as safe as the store or agency with the weakest security measures that hold your information.
Because of the stronger consumer protection laws in regard to fraudulent credit card use compared to the laws regarding fraudulent debit card use, you would be well advised to limiting the use of your debit card to ATMs and not for retail purchases. Also, it is important to check your payment statements for your credit card thoroughly and regularly each month or even more often online. If you find irregularities, regardless of how small they may be, you should report the irregularities to your credit card company and consider closing the card and getting a replacement card with a new number if your card’s security has indeed been breached.