Wednesday, March 14, 2007


A well meaning friend sent me the following message asbout hotel key cards by e-mail this morning.
I immediately e-mailed her back suggesting she check her source because it sounded very much like an urban legend to me.

Later I went on to my favourite urban legend website and sure enough there listed on their hottest urban legends was hotel key cards at number 14 !!


Ever wonder what is on your magnetic key card?


a. Customer's name
b. Customer's partial home address
c. Hotel room number
d. Check-in date and out dates
e. Customer's credit card number and expiration date!When you turn them in to the front desk your personalinformation is there for any employee to access by simply scanning the card in the hotel scanner.
An employee can take a hand full of cards home and using a scanning device,access the information onto a laptop computer and go shopping at your expense.
Simply put, hotels do not erase the information on these cards until an employee reissues the card to the next hotel guest.

At that time, the new guest's information is electronically "overwritten" on the card and the previousguest's information is erased in the overwriting process.

But until the card is rewritten for the next guest, itusually is kept in a drawer at the front desk with YOUR INFORMATION ON IT!

The bottom line is:

Keep the cards, take them home with you, or destroy them.
NEVER leave them behind in the room or room wastebasket, and NEVER turn them in to the front desk when you check out of aroom. They will not charge you for the card (it's illegal)and you'll be sure you are not leaving a lot of valuablepersonal information on it that could be easily lifted offwith any simple scanning device card reader.
For the same reason, if you arrive at the airport and discover you still have the card key in your pocket, do not toss it in anairport trash basket. Take it home and destroy it by cutting it up, especially through the electronic information strip!

Information courtesy of Pasadena Police Department

I have long been fascinated by urban legends and in the days before the Web arrived and changed all our lives forever I use to buy every book I came across on the subject. I still have the best three on my bookshelf and I notice coincidentally they were all published in 1999.
For the record they are:

Good Luck Mr.Gorsky-exploring urban myths - Robert Pollock - Reed
Urban Legends - the truth behind the myths - Richard Roper - Career Press
Alligators in the Sewer & 222 other urban legends - T.J.Craughwell - Black Dog & Leventhal

Today these are rather superfluous as Google offers over a million websites on the subject and as quick as a new one comes along someone denounces it on the Web.

The thing that has always astonished me about the urban legend is the way people swear that they are true because "their cousin knew the person to whom it happened" or similar.

Have a look at the website I listed at the top of this post, I'll wager you'll be astonished, and more than a little entertained.

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