The Key To A Good Scam Is A Hapless Employee

, , , | Working | April 16, 2018

(Our hotel has an option for keyless entry to your hotel room. Basically, you can get a key to your room on your smartphone and completely bypass the front desk to go straight to your room. It immediately becomes an attraction for credit-card thieves, as they can just input stolen numbers on their phones and go right up without us checking their ID. However, you must be a part of the hotel’s rewards program to access the feature, so to deter thieves, low-tier members are not able to use their keyless entry without first stopping at the desk to verify their identities and credit cards. Once their identities are verified, the front desk agent can manually authorize the activation of the key on their phone. On this particular night, I notice a low-tier member has booked our most expensive room, and opted for keyless entry. This rings alarm bells, so I look up her profile.)

Me: “Hey, [Manager], this guest is a scammer.”

Manager: “What makes you say that?”

Me: “Well, for one, she tried to get a room here a few nights ago and, by the notes on her reservation, she told the desk that she had no credit card or ID. We cancelled it for her without a charge because of sketchiness. And two, the credit card on this reservation is completely different from her last one.”

Manager: “Yeah, that sounds pretty fishy. Just keep an eye on it; at least she can’t get a key without coming to the desk.”

(We have just hours earlier had a meeting on this very topic. However, about half an hour later, I am looking at the reservations left to check in and notice that the suspicious reservation has been issued her key. Skeptical, I go to the agent who it says did the issuing.)

Me: “Hey, [Agent], did [Suspicious Guest] actually check in with a proper card?”

Agent: “What? No. She hasn’t been up here. Why?”

Me: “It says you issued her a key! Now she can get in the room with what might be a fake card!”

Agent: “I didn’t check her in! I was just approving the keyless entries for the day!”

Me: “You were… What?”

Agent: “I always do this! You have to approve all of the keyless entries for them to work!”

Me: “I… What? No! The system automatically approves the ones that meet criteria! It will put a ‘pending approval’ notice on low-tier members or anyone whose card declines! You just issued keys to everyone who bothered to ask for one!”

Agent: “What? I’ve been doing this since the keyless entry program started! Are you sure?”

Me: “What did you think pressing the ‘Approve Keyless Entry’ button did?!”

(After taking a bit to process the whole encounter, I retrained her on how the system worked, and she promised not to manually approve any more keyless entries until their payment and ID were verified. It was pure luck we hadn’t had more scammers get through the system, as apparently this agent had been doing this for months. I was able to lock out the room that the suspicious guest was renting before she got there, so she would have to come to the desk after all. And wouldn’t you know it? When she did contact the desk, she stated that she didn’t have her card, and she was not allowed to stay.)

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