Credit card security breached at hotel group


25 Jun 2003

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Siliconrepublic.com has learned that the Marriott International hotel group is the merchant at the centre of the massive security breach which has lead to 3,000 Irish credit cards being reissued and an estimated 60,000 worldwide.

News of the incident began to emerge yesterday, although no merchant was named. It is believed that Irish financial institutions have been aware of it for the past week. AIB and Bank of Ireland have each already contacted approximately 1,000 customers in order to reissue cards which may have been compromised by the fraud. It is understood that Permanent TSB has contacted around 100 of its customers in connection to the incident.

Although it has only just come to light, it is understood that security had been compromised for approximately one year to eighteen months. It is believed that the security breach came to light once the affected cards began to be used to make purchases. Siliconrepublic.com has learned that the form of fraud involved was skimming, i.e. the illegal copying of a card’s data. This is one of the most common forms of credit card fraud and often takes place out of sight of the owner when the card has been handed over to pay for goods or services.

A spokesperson for Visa declined to comment on the incident, other than read a pre-prepared statement. Visa would not give a figure for the number of cards affected worldwide, although sources close to the banking industry give an estimated figure of 60,000 cards.

Speaking to siliconrepublic.com last night, a spokesperson for Marriott International confirmed that the company had learned that some of the credit cards of some former guests had been compromised. “This matter is being looked into by the authorities and we can’t comment any further on the matter,” said the spokesperson. Marriott International declined to comment on how many locations in the group were compromised or on the number of cards involved, other than to say that it understood the amount of cards affected was “relatively small”.

Marriott International is one of the leading worldwide hotel companies with nearly 2,600 properties in the United States and 66 other countries. It operates and franchises hotels under the Marriott, JW Marriott, the Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance, Residence Inn, Courtyard, Towne Place Suites, Fairfield Inn, Spring Hill Suites and Ramada International brand names. It also develops and operates vacation ownership resorts under the Marriott Vacation Club International, Horizons, the Ritz-Carlton Club and Marriott Grand Residence Club brands. The company is headquartered in Washington, DC and has approximately 129,000 employees.

By Dick O’Brien