How safe are you in a hotel?

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

(FOX19)  - Summer means time to travel for many people, but just how safe are you in a hotel? We sent three members of the Fox 19 crew undercover to two local hotels to put security to the test.

Fox 19 employee Lindsey visited two hotels in the Tri-State. She checked-in to both of them, and hours later, our producer Amanda was able to figure out which rooms Lindsey was staying in and got a key to both of them. How did she do it?

First, the clerk asked Lindsey for her last name and her phone number. You should never announce personal information. Always hand the front desk clerk your ID and credit card.

"A lot of times the hotels will actually use your phone number as a security identifier," said security expert Chad Martin of Elite Protection Group. "So by giving your phone number out in the open that allows somebody to come back and try to gain more information from the clerk."

Which is exactly what our producer Jason was able to do. He heard the whole check-in process. Jason was standing in the lobby; just feet away from Lindsey.

The clerk also said Lindsey's floor so within five minutes, Jason had learned Lindsey's name, number and floor. He then followed her into the elevator, onto her floor, and down the hall to get Lindsey's hotel room number.

It's especially important when you consider that Jason gave all of that information to Amanda who used it all, name, phone number and room number, to get a key to Lindsey's first hotel room.

We tried the same scenario at a second hotel.

Again, the clerk asked for Lindsey's name, but this time, he also took a few extra security steps. The hotel clerk asked Lindsey how many keys she would like for the room and made a note of it in the computer. If you're traveling alone and the clerk doesn't ask you this, you should make sure you mention it. The clerk also walked around the counter and showed Lindsey her room number, instead of announcing it in the lobby.

But even with those extra precautions, Jason was still able to follow Lindsey into the elevator and onto her floor.

"That's a great reason why we always tell people that security is actually, a lot of it, is state of mind.," said Martin.

Jason again sent that information to Amanda who returned to the hotel desk. Amanda asked another clerk for a key to Lindsey's room. Amanda told the clerk that her name should be on the reservation and she needed to get a key to the room. The clerk tells her name isn't no the reservation. He then asks Amanda for Lindsey's room number and then her permanent address. Amanda doesn't have either. The clerk then tried to call Lindsey's room. Amanda then told him that Lindsey was in a meeting and had just sent her a text that she should try to get a key.

The clerk asks Amanda to confirm Lindsey's phone number. Amanda does, and our producer gets a room key to Lindsey's second hotel room.

"One of the oldest tricks there is," said Martin. "You can take any cell phone, and you can type somebody's name into the address book with any phone number you want, and you can easily say, well I just received a text from her, look!"

Jason also noticed another major safety concern at the first hotel: the back entrance was only supposed to open if you have a room key. Jason was able to use it without one.

"Problem here is nobody's doing the proper maintenance," said Martin. "The door closure's not pulling the door shut and that magnetic lock is not engaging. {Jason} was able to go out, come back around, let himself right in through the rear entrance, without having a door key. He had access to anywhere in the building, and nobody knew he was there."

Our security expert gave the first hotel a failing grade. He gave the second hotel a C+.

-Remember, hotel staff should never announce your personal information. If they do, you need to keep an eye out for who's around at the time.

-Always lock your doors when you're in your room.

"Having the deadbolts and the door strikers, those are really good extra security," Martin said. "They should really be locked and engaged at all times when you're in the room."

-Don't leave personal items out in the open when you leave your room.

-Pay attention to who is in the elevator with you. If you feel uncomfortable, get off on another floor or ask for another room.

-Make sure your hands are free in the elevator. Martin says you're an easy target if your arms are loaded up.

"When people panic, they clench down on whatever they're holding onto and will never let go," said Martin. "So when people are walking to their car or getting in an elevator, we always want them to think, put the cell phones in the purse, let go of their luggage so you can get your hands free. That way if you need to defend yourself, you're ready to go."

Remember, these tips are only guidelines and not guarantees. Still, they're a few simple, extra steps that could keep you and your family safe on that next trip to a hotel.

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