The number of hotel rooms being stolen from around the world has more than doubled in the past decade, with many travellers unaware they’re being targeted by thieves who use the anonymity of social media to commit the crimes.
Key points:The number of rooms being used as a money-laundering operation has more hit the US than any other country in the world, according to a study from cyber security firm KasperskySource: Kasperski LabGlobal hotel room thefts and their impact on the economyMore than 100 million hotel rooms worldwide have been used to launder money, with a third of those stolen being laundered through social media platforms, according the latest report by Kasperskov Lab.
Kaspersky Lab conducted a survey of hotel owners and operators in more than 80 countries and found that almost all hotel rooms were stolen by criminals using social media as a means of making their illicit gains.
Key findings:Hotel rooms are typically used to hold cash, usually from an account or an online transaction.
In some cases, hotel rooms may be the most common target, as thieves use the internet to make anonymous payments for hotel rooms.
Many of the crimes that are reported to police are in countries with low rates of hotel room theft, such as Russia, the Philippines, Romania, Brazil and South Korea.
However, the number of thefts that are logged online in these countries has skyrocketed in recent years.
Kremlin-controlled news agency Sputnik reported in July that Russia has been the biggest hotel theft hotspot in the Asia-Pacific region.
It is believed that more than 100 hotel rooms and other property have been stolen since the beginning of the year, with most of the thefts occurring in Russia.
Klaus Zetterl, a senior research associate at Kasperskino, said the increase in hotel room crime is “unusually high”, with thefts of hotel suites being reported in Australia, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the United States and elsewhere.
“It is the second-largest hotel theft area in the United Kingdom and is the fifth largest in Australia,” he said.
“In other words, it is quite a big country.”
While the numbers of hotels being targeted is “not necessarily surprising”, Zetterm said the high number of cases has prompted some to question why criminals would do such a thing.
“If it is true that these types of thefts are becoming more prevalent, it raises many questions, because we know that this is not a spontaneous phenomenon, but an organised crime,” he told ABC News.
The Australian Crime Commission has released its annual report into hotel theft, which found that hotels across Australia were used as money-menders for more than half of all hotel crimes reported.
According to the report, hotels were the most commonly used method of laundering money for a third, or a quarter, of all crimes that were reported.
It said hotel thefts were a “particularly dangerous” option, because it allowed thieves to make their illegal gains in a safe environment, which is more difficult to trace.
“The risk to hotel guests is particularly high because they are often in a place that is not secured and there is no CCTV monitoring of the area,” the report said.
Mr Zetter said many hotel rooms in Australia were being used by people who were not familiar with social media, and some hotels had been “reconstituted” to facilitate money laundering.
“This creates a situation where criminals can use social media in a way that is difficult to track, and they can easily make their criminal gains,” he explained.