Innkeepers, Are you losing your identity?

Online Identity Theft

As innkeepers, your lives are public, they need to be.

Guests do like to know who they are staying with generally, it’s an integral part of the B&B brand. And while not every innkeeper has their names and photos on their websites, the vast majority do.

Realistically, it’s not much different then most businesses online, you can find out who owns a business, how long they have been in business, etc. just by trolling through the information found easily on Google.

This post though is not about brand and brand identity, but about identity theft.

As innkeepers, once your own information gets compromised, so can your guests and their personal and financial information, so it’s extremely important that you take precautions to protect not just your own information, but those of others you’re associated with. You are taking guest’s names, phone numbers, addresses and credit card information………..

Many innkeepers are on Facebook, not all use business pages, but this isn’t about business pages, this is about the amount of information on your personal accounts. And for those innkeepers on Linkedin as well.

People using one or both of these mediums are more at risk for identity theft, then those who are not. I am not saying don’t use them, but instead be cognizant of what information you are putting out there.

Many people put their birthdays on both platforms. That’s fine, but don’t put your real birth year and don’t put it online anywhere in anything (aside maybe from your bank that might require it). If you have sites you use that ask for that info, pick a birth year date that’s within a century of your birth, but not too close to your own, and then stick with it across all platforms. The first step in identity theft is gaining access to your birth date, don’t just give it away.

Look at how much information is on your networks. Many people on Linkedin and Facebook put graduation years, high school and college and they put the specific dates, Graduated from Lands End College, July 17, 1979.  If you want to network with others from that graduating class for example, put July 1979 or just 1979, the more information you give out, the more an ID thief has to work with.

On Facebook, “Location: currently residing in Lands End, MA, from Riverfront, PA”  Guess what, someone now has; where you were born/grew up, when you were born, where you currently live, where you went to college. etc.

Eyeball the information out there and lock some of it down.

You might say, “Well I have it set (on Facebook) so only friends I know and relatives can see the information……”

A wake up call, recently a spate of cloned Facebook accounts has been going around. A fake profile using your friend/relatives name, profile picture and similar “likes” is created and then invites start going out to the people that they are connected with.

Almost 50% of the people assume the person in question had a problem with their account or got disconnected from them, so they automatically reconnect.

That spammer/scammer/ID thief now has access to others personal information until which point it’s realized it’s fake, and then disconnected and reported. It is extremely easy to set up a fake FB account, all your need is an email address. Less than 5 minutes is all a scammer needs to troll through an account that they now have access to.

I’ve had some people say well I don’t put any of that info in Linkedin or Facebook, BUT if you go through posts, people tag relatives and friends, list places they have visited/stayed. Put their dogs/cats name for all to see.  “Look at cute little Buster with his ball, isn’t he just the best pup?” “My favorite vacation spot is Westerly, RI.”

They have done multiple studies on passwords, many people, if they have favorite pets, make pet’s names part of frequently used passwords.  Favorite vacation spots are another. So an ID thief finds your dog Lucky’s name, and your favorite number is 6 (based on comments on various other people’s posts) and you love Chicago, and they snagged your email address off of Linkedin and/or your website……………………….

Plus many people use the same or a same set of passwords for everything!  With so many online sites, plus social media sites, reservations software, etc. it can be mind-boggling to try to remember them all.

The best solution to remembering passwords is either (if you don’t trust the cloud) get a small address book and put them in alphabetically, and store in a safe place, or use a safe and proven online storage program like Lastpass (https://lastpass.com/) or others (research wisely before using), or develop several sets of passwords (that have no relation to yourself but you’ll remember) that you rotate weekly or bi-weekly in and out of any platforms and online programs you use a lot.

And I’ve touched on some of these before and will again (and probably again).  Antivirus and Backing-up, My biggest challenges when it comes to working with BandBs.

Have a good Antivirus and even more importantly, make sure it’s up to date and updates frequently. (I’ve got lost count of the number of times per month when I talk to a client and they say, “I think it’s up to date”, and it hasn’t been since 2011) Statistics range from how many new viruses come out daily, anywhere from 300+ to 10K+, but even if you took the lower number, that’s now about 328, 500+ viruses that your computer is not protecting you against.

Have a good malware program. Antivirus will not catch a lot of malware, and malware can be even more malicious and damaging than a virus. If you get a keylogger on your machine, it will capture every single keystroke you make on your keyboard, including all your usernames and passwords for EVERYTHING!

Back up your Data, and keep copies in multiple places, at least one in the cloud and at least one offsite.

Once your computer and your information is compromised, don’t forget, it’s not just you that becomes at risk, it’s any guests, future and past as well.

And if compromising the information of others doesn’t scare the tuckus out of you enough, think if you had a malicious former bad guest (who was tech savvy) who really wanted to cause some trouble for you…….. Imagine having a guest say to you, “I didn’t know you were in prison/a stalker/a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, etc……………..” Ouch!

About Chef Forfeng

Innkeeping Tip and Tricks: Please check out some marketing ideas for Inns and B&Bs, Blogging ideas, Facebook Tips and Social Media Tutorials https://chefforfeng.wordpress.com/marketing-for-lodging-resources/
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One Response to Innkeepers, Are you losing your identity?

  1. Audrey Gray says:

    Great blog article Heather ! Yes I don’t put my BD or school etc.. for another reason, being bothered
    by people trying to get more social. For me its a business and treat it as such. I got some who thought they were related.. bit hard I am it ! so dropped off. Its scary too what people just throw
    out in the mail. When I worked in the hotel, years back, guest would ask for the carbon copy from the credit card..I read & heard on news that is something to do. My fellow clerks wondered what I was doing, its common for guest to ask for it, as it has all that info. I gave it and said she was smart.
    We started watching how that stuff was thrown out after that. It’s not the same world.. always have a paper trail too for your own business so you can prove it!

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