Marriott Data Breach: What Should You Do?

Last week, one of the largest hotel chains in the world, Marriott International, Inc., announced that a massive data breach of its Starwood reservation system exposed the personal information of up to 500 million guests. Those who stayed at the chain’s Starwood brand hotels from 2014 through September 10, 2018 are affected. That’s four long years of data theft before the hackers were detected.

This is the fourth massive U.S. data breach since 2013, including Yahoo (3 billion accounts), Equifax (147 million consumers) and Target (40 million customers). The Marriott break-in not only exposed names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and credit card information, but rarer data too, including birth dates, gender and passport information from international guests.

While its credit card information was encrypted, Marriott indicated it’s possible that the hackers were able to steal the encryption keys, rendering the credit card data encryption worthless.

What’s Marriott doing for its guests?

Marriott has already set up an information page for the Starwood Guest Reservation Database Security Incident. On the page they briefly explain the breach’s timeline and what data is involved. Marriott stated that among other actions, it’s working to quickly phase out the old Starwood reservation system. Marriott indicated that they started sending notification emails to affected guests last week. It will take a while to notify everyone. If you’re affected, Marriott has established a dedicated call center and they’ve arranged for affected guests to be able to enroll in Kroll’s Web Watcher fraud monitoring. It’s free for one year, but only available to customers in the U.S. Canada and the U.K.

What should Marriott customers affected by the breach do for themselves?

Check that any notification email received from Marriott is legitimate: With a breach this large there’s little doubt that malicious hackers will try to scam Marriott customers with phishing and other fraudulent schemes to harvest their personal information. Marriott’s email notification won’t contain attachments or requests for any information. Its links will solely bring affected guests to the Starwood Guest Reservation Database Security Incident page.

Sign up for Web Watcher: There’s no reason not to sign up for the free year of Web Watcher fraud monitoring, if it’s offered in your country of residence. Click on your country on the right side of the “Security Incident” page to get the “Enroll Now” link.
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Consider freezing your credit: You can freeze your credit for free. It will prevent anyone from opening a new account, taking out a loan, or obtaining a new credit card in your name. Freezing your credit won’t damage your credit score. You’ve got to freeze your credit at all three credit bureaus for it to be effective, so contact Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. If you find you need to take out a loan or get a new credit card yourself, you can lift the freeze for a limited time or for a particular entity.

What should every traveler do whether or not they’re affected by the Marriott breach?

Get a password manager: A password manager can create, store and automatically fill in your passwords along with other login information. You can store them for accessing websites, online accounts, etc.

Change your Marriott password: If you have both Marriott and Starwood accounts, it’s time to combine them into one account, then change your password.

Set a strong password and make it at least twelve digits long. According to How Secure Is My Password, using an eight digit password with at least one small and one capital letter, a symbol and a number would take a computer just four weeks to crack. If you just add four extra numbers, twelve digits total, it would take about 3 million years to crack that password.

You should use a different password for every website and account. Since you’re hopefully now using a password manager, that’s easy to accomplish, as is changing your passwords regularly.

Edit your Marriott profile: Put only the required information in your profile. Remove any other information. If your profile is breached, only the information there can be stolen.
Credit and debit cards are optional in Marriott profiles. If you enter a card for your convenience, make it a credit card. They have more consumer protection than debit cards. When you get to your hotel you can pay with almost any card, regardless of your profile.

Monitor your Marriott/SPG account and all financial accounts: You should always monitor all your financial accounts, looking for unauthorized activity and incorrect information.

User Responsibility: While extremely easy to use and convenient, online information storage and transactions make our personal and financial information vulnerable to criminal activities. It’s up to each one of us to take prudent measures to protect our identity and finances to the extent possible. The commonsense approach and actions outlined above for your Marriott account should be applied to all your online accounts for your personal and financial protection.

DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to be legal advice. The article simply serves as a suggestion of possible actions for those who may have been affected by the Marriott Data Breach.

Most Common Travel Related Accidents and Injuries

Travel Guard has published their list of the most common travel related accidents and injuries.

*Renting and using vehicles such as mopeds, Segways, jet skis or scooters without proper instructions.

*Drinking alcohol: Falls cause numerous injuries, and poor judgement in any situation can lead to an accident.

*Going beyond physical limits: If your knee hurts while walking the dog, it will hurt even more on when you attempt to cover Paris in one day.

*Falling during transfers on and off the tour bus, from dock to boat, etc.

* Riding or approaching animals.

*Ignoring existing medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Getting ill. (Wash your hands, a lot.)

*Taking selfies: Watch where you walk and remember that circumventing safety measures to get better pictures can lead to injury.

*Eating exotic cuisines that can cause stomach problems. Engaging in adventurous or strenuous activities with no experience—rock-climbing, challenging hikes, zip lines.

A travel insurance policy may be very helpful if you find yourself in one of the above situation.

To compare policy benefits or to purchase insurance click on the Travel Guard banner below.

5 US Airlines’ Nut Policies

Photo by Samrat Khadka on Unsplash

Kerry Tice and Sean Sweeney have provided helpful information for those interested in nut allergies and airlines.

Trying to maintain a nut-free environment on airplanes is virtually impossible, but a number of carriers are taking steps to offer solutions to the problem.

Following is a roundup of the allergy policies of U.S. major carriers and whether or not they serve nuts on their flights. All of the carriers encourage passengers to take necessary medical precautions prior to flying. It should be noted that EpiPens are exempt from the TSA 3-ounce limit on liquids.

American Airlines
Though the carrier does not serve peanuts on its flights, it does offer mixed nuts to its first-class and business-class passengers, making it difficult to guarantee that passengers won’t be exposed to nuts during their trip. Effective Dec. 12, the carrier will allow passengers with nut allergies to board early to wipe down their seats.

“Some have asked us if we expect to see people faking a nut allergy in order to board the flight earlier,” said American spokesperson Michelle Mohr. “We do not expect rampant abuse of this policy. We do not think that our customers will fake having a potentially life-threatening allergy in order to simply board the plane a little bit faster.”

Delta Air Lines
If a passenger notifies Delta of a peanut or nut allergy at least 48 hours prior to the flight, the carrier will refrain from serving any kind of peanut products onboard, instead offering non-peanut snacks to everyone onboard.

Additionally, passengers can alert gate agents if they would like to pre-board to decontaminate their seats, but the airline advises that they must bring their own cleaning materials.

The carrier’s website policy reads: “Though we always aim to work with you to make your flight safe and comfortable, we cannot guarantee a peanut- or nut-free flight or prohibit other customers from carrying nut products aboard. If you need to make us aware of a nut allergy for an upcoming flight, please visit My Trips to fill out the Accessibility Service Request form or call Delta reservations at 404-209-3434.”

United Airlines
United does not serve pre-packaged peanuts on its flights, but notes on its website that it does “prepare and serve meals and snacks utilizing a variety of other ingredients, including major food allergens.”

Due to this, the carrier says it cannot guarantee an allergen-free meal or environment on its flights or prevent customers from bringing food items onboard that contain major food allergens, including peanuts.

United’s website policy reads: “If you have concerns about a severe food allergy, please notify a flight attendant onboard the aircraft. In some cases, we may be able to pass along your request to other customers seated nearby to refrain from opening and eating any allergen-containing products they may have brought onboard.

For operational reasons, we cannot remove any onboard products based on individual customer requests, and we do not offer allergen-free buffer zones on our aircraft. Since we cannot guarantee allergen-free flights, we encourage customers to review any health concerns with their physicians prior to flying.”

Southwest Airlines
The carrier stopped serving peanuts on its flights on Aug. 1, however their website policy states that many of the snacks they serve “may be packaged in the same facility as peanuts. Therefore, we cannot guarantee that they don’t contain peanut particles or oil.” Southwest also stated it cannot prevent passengers from bringing peanuts onboard its flights.

JetBlue
JetBlue does not serve peanuts onboard but does serve other nuts and food items that may be cross-contaminated with peanuts. On request, the carrier will create a three-row buffer zone around a passenger with a nut allergy and ask those passengers in that zone to refrain from eating any nuts. JetBlue will also offer a full refund to passengers whose allergies make it impossible for them to travel.

Tips for Flying with your Pet(s)

More and more people are flying with their pets. Some of these pets are considered family members. Some are service pets.Others are considered comfort pets. Still others, are simply seeing how far they can push the boundaries of air travel for pets.

Below are 7 tips provided by Centrav Travel.

If you are thinking of flying with a pet, check with the airline for their policy.

Baggage Fees Going Up, Up, Up

Jet Blue and United got the ball rolling, and now Delta and American are following suit with a baggage fee increase.

Delta and American are both increasing the fee for the first bag from $25 to $30. The fee for a second bag on both carriers is increasing from $35 to $40.