Affected by the Marriott Hack? Here’s What To Do

Posted by Jamie Mackenzie Smith in Identity Theft on 30 November 2018

If you’re one of the 500 million consumers to have stayed in a Marriott-owned Starwood chain hotel in the past four years, there’s a chance your personal information could have been compromised in what could be the second biggest ever data breach.

Full details are yet to emerge, but W Hotels, Sheraton, Le Méridien and Four Points by Sheraton hotels are likely to have been affected by the breach, going back as far as 2014. Marriott Hotels themselves use a different booking system to the one that hackers gained access to, and so is believed to be unaffected.

Under the GDPR, the Marriott group could face a financial penalty of up to 4% of its annual revenue, which would make it the first business to receive this fine since the legislation came into place. Even though it is based in the US, GDPR is still applicable when interacting with citizens of the EU. Marriott International purchased the Starwood Group of hotels in 2016, but it took until September 2018 for an internal security tool to flag a potential breach and trigger further investigations.

For approximately 327m of those affected, the information that could have been accessed includes some combination of:

  • Name
  • Mailing address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Passport number
  • Starwood Preferred Guest (“SPG”) account information
  • Date of Birth
  • Gender
  • Times checked in and out of the hotels plus reservation date
  • Communication preferences

Although payment card details were encrypted, the investigation cannot yet rule out that the encryption keys (needed to decode the card details) were also accessed.

Much of the data that has been accessed would be highly appealing to fraudsters - which is why one of the remedies that has been put in place is to offer affected customers free access to WebWatcher, a fraud monitoring service.

Regardless of whether you are affected by this breach, one of the most effective ways to spot signs of potential fraudulent activity is to monitor your Credit Report. You’ll be able to see applications for credit in the form of credit searches, linked addresses and accounts that you don’t recognise. If you are unfortunate enough to fall victim, checkmyfile subscribers benefit from Identity Fraud Assistance at no extra cost.

Find out more about checking your Credit Report for Identity Fraud

Unlike having a social media or email account hacked, it’s not as simple as changing your password to prevent fraudsters targeting you. Once sensitive personal data has been compromised, this could be used months or years after the breach, so it’s important to be vigilant.

It’s not uncommon to be a victim of fraud several years after a data breach has happened, with information freely traded and supplemented through the Dark Web.

See our guide about what to do if you become a victim of identity fraud for more information.

What to look out for

If you are concerned about identity theft or falling victim to other types of fraud, there are some early warning signs to watch out for:

New searches

You might not instantly recognise all of the search activity shown on your Credit Report, as detailed below. That’s quite normal and shouldn’t be an immediate cause for concern. There are several different types of searches recorded on Credit Reports, and in the vast majority of cases, these should relate to you personally.

Audit Searches typically relate to you accessing your own Credit Report, aren’t visible to lenders and don’t impact your Credit Rating.

Enquiry Searches do not affect your Credit Score unless they have been carried out by debt collection services. This type of search does not relate to applications for credit and are likely to appear when using a comparison site or applying for insurance. It’s not uncommon for a company name rather than a brand to be listed, and for that to be the name that appears.

Credit Applications – the one to pay most attention to. These relate to applications for credit and you should recognise every single one.

New credit agreements

Finding a credit agreement on your Credit Report that you don’t recognise can understandably come as a shock, least of all because if it’s there as a result of fraud, you’ll find that criminals have very little intention of protecting your credit rating and you can also end up with a heap of negative payment markers.

If you see a credit agreement with a company whose name you don’t recognise, it might be because a company you have taken out finance with uses a separate finance company, but armed with the other information that is shown – including the start date, balance and any credit limit – you should recognise it.

If you’re ever unsure, contact the company and ask them for more information, they should be happy to help out.

New linked addresses

The Linked Addresses section on your Credit Report show any addresses where you have either opened credit accounts, or have changed existing agreements to.

A linked address that you don’t recognise can be a sign that credit has been taken out using your information at another address, or that there has been an attempt to move an existing agreement to a new address. It’s worth keeping an eye on.

Taking extra precautions

If you think you are at a heightened risk of identity fraud as a result of a data breach, you can apply for Protective Registration at a cost of £20 for 2 years to add an extra layer of security. This prevents credit applications from being processed automatically, and whilst it might mean that any application you make yourself takes longer and is subject to extra scrutiny, it will give you additional peace of mind.

Alternatively, you can achieve the same result by adding a Notice of Correction to your Credit Report, explaining that you believe you have been the victim of identity theft. This method costs nothing and requires the same manual checks to be carried out (and the same delays to application processing).

If you are concerned about falling victim to identity fraud, either as a direct result of a data breach or any other means, checking your Credit Report regularly should be near the top of the actions you consider. If you haven’t already, you can try checkmyfile FREE for 30 days, then for just £14.99 a month afterwards which you can cancel online, by email or by phone.

If you have not been affected by the Marriott breach but still feel you may be at a heightened risk of fraud, you can use our Identity Fraud Risk Estimator to see whether you are likely to fall victim.

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