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Hotel Room Safes - They May Not Be as Safe as You Thought They Were

Travelers have been told for years that they should keep their valuables safe by keeping them in their hotel room safe.  Any while this may initially seem, and usually is the best place to secure your valuables (other than the front desk safe which is usually more secure and usually has more liability protection), their are concerns that every traveler should be aware of.

Despite locking your in-room hotel safe, some hotels are not as secure as you think.  This is due to the real and obvious fact that because hotel guests sometimes forget their safe codes, or due to the fact that the safe electronic code may have had some type of electronic malfunction, all hotels have a special "electronic backdoor" that allows them to use a special digital code or key that will allow the hotel staff to open the safe in case the guest forgets the code, or loses the key.

Some safes may use a master key, others may have a special code to open the door. Either way, when a safe has a way for unauthorized people to get in it, your valuables may run the risk of theft.  The more interesting issue of this is that if some of your valuables were removed from the safe while you were away from your hotel room, the safe will not be damaged, thus making it hard to prove who exactly stole stuff from the safe during your stay.  In many cases, hotel management may not always be willing to cooperate, especially in certain countries where management may be the culprits behind the theft. Worst of all, without any evidence, your travel insurance usually won't cover these losses.

It is important to note that only the most negligent of hotel operators would leave the override code set to all 0's, a default code, some other easy to guess code. The override code can (and must for obvious reasons) be changed to something difficult to guess prior to putting the safe into operation. So who's more at fault here—lazy hotel staff, or safe manufacturers for setting such a lazy default code? No matter who we blame for this obvious security code mistake, travelers should be aware of this issue and check if any of the standard codes open the safe in the room you are staying in.  Typically the codes being found are all 0's or numbers in order such as "1,2,3,4,5" etc.

It's one thing if someone can guess your phone's password—another if someone can get their hands on your passport of some or all of your cash or credit cards.  If you are unsure of your hotel room's safe security, your best option is to consider using a special hotel safe lock called the Milockie.  This hotel safe lock is a device consists of a special lock and strap which you take with you on your trip.  You simply add this device on the safe and you can secure the door of the safe from opening with your own lock, preventing anyone else from gaining access.

Now travelers need to take into consideration that these types of thefts - which usually involved dishonest hotel employees - does not occur very often, it seems to have a higher rate of reporting outside the United States, with most reports coming from Mexico, South America, and Southern Europe, Spain, Canary Islands, Africa, and Asia.

Another concern is one that is unusual, but does happen, as reported recently in several upscale hotels in Thailand.  Chonburi Immigration officers arrested two Russians charged with theft in upscale Pattaya hotels such as Hard Rock and Bella Express hotel. The duo had a bizarre behaviour of taking pictures with the stolen goods. Additional evidence was provided by the security cameras of the hotels.

Pattaya, January 19, 2012 [PDN]; Col. Chusak Mansamporn, Bureau of Immigration ,Chonburi team arrested Mr.Denis Skvortsov aged 31 and Ms. Antonina Pavlova 23-year-old both Russian citizens charged with stealing Thai, US dollars, Euro and other currencies, credit cards, smart phones, watches, digital cameras and perfume. The value of the stolen goods approximately one million THB.

 

 

Their modus operandi was the following.  The thieves would rent a room in the hotel and wait for the cleaning staff to arrive at the neighbouring room.  The thieves would then walk into the room when the maid was cleaning the room -  pretending it was theirs.  They would convince the maid that the room belonged to them even more by one of them quickly taking a shower.  At this point one of the thieves would tell the main they forgot their room safe combination and ask the hotel staff to open the safe for them. After the two Russians had stolen enough money, credit cards, watches and jewelry they flew to Hong Kong or Singapore. Stayed low for a while and came back to steal from more innocent tourists visiting Pattaya. The duo is charged with theft and awaiting prosecution.  More about this uncommon type of theft can be found here.

Here are a few videos that various travelers have filmed from around the world showing how easy it is to open some hotel safes with a simple master code or other means.

 

Another hotel safe which opens with a master pass code of "0000"

 

 

Hotel safe in Chicago which shows the reset switch which can be easily accessed. It is unknown if this would open the safe, but makes your wonder.

 

Our site contains over 100 pages of travel safety tips and security tips that are useful for any traveler. You will find tips involving luggage theft, avoiding pickpockets, laptop theft, hotel burglary, and airplane, train, automobile, and boat travel crimes.