'Hotel Hackers' behind burglaries at hotels, motels in East Valley

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Kristine Harrington

Posted on May 15, 2013 at 9:22 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 15 at 8:20 PM

MESA, TEMPE and SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A man and a woman have been burglarizing hotel and motel rooms in the Easy Valley and now Silent Witness is offering a reward for information about them.

According to Silent Witness, the pair, dubbed "Hotel Hackers," used portable programming devices to get into the rooms at various locations in Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale and possibly Avondale. It's not clear how many locations the pair has hit, but Silent Witness said the crime spree started on Feb. 25.

The suspects have stolen TVs, bedding, laptop computers and guests' personal belongings, including credit cards.

Silent Witness released surveillance video (above) and photos of the pair, both of which were taken at a Walmart store where the suspects used a stolen credit card.

The first suspect is a white female in her 20s. She has a medium build and shoulder-length blond hair. She was last seen wearing a dark long-sleeve shirt, jeans, a black baseball cap with white lettering, white athletic shoes and glasses.

Her partner is a white male, also in his 20s. He has a slim build and short blond hair. He was last seen wearing a light blue long-sleeve shirt, jeans, white athletic shoes and a white cap with black lettering.

In another incident, this one in Phoenix, two men burglarized a woman's hotel room the morning of April 16.

According Sgt. Darren Burch of the Phoenix Police Department, the woman left to attend a class. She returned to her room to discover it had been ransacked and most of her belongs had been taken.

Surveillance video showed the suspects, both white males in their 20s, entering the hotel and then leaving with the victim's suitcases. It also captured them arriving at and leaving the hotel in an older champagne colored two-door Honda with black rims.

Burch told 3TV's Kristine Harrington that some 30 local hotels -- probably more -- have been targeted by hotel hackers. Investigators believe there are more suspects than those caught on surveillance video.

So-called hotel hacking is not just a local problem. Because the technology used to open the electronic locks is so easy to obtain and use, hotel hacking is growing issue nationwide.

That's why police are advising travelers to be extra vigilant.

"The next time you stay in a hotel room, run your fingers under the keycard lock outside you," Phoenix Police Officer James Holmes advised in the wake of the Silent Witness news release about the Hotel Hackers.

"With a few hacker tricks and a handful of cheap hardware, that tiny round hole might offer access to your room just as easily as your keycard."

If you know anything about either of the suspects, call Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS (948-6377), 1-800-343-TIPS (8477) or 480-TESTIGO (837-8446). You also can go online to SilentWitness.org. Not only can you remain anonymous, you could be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000 if your information leads to an arrest or indictment.

Travel safety tips from the Phoenix Police Department

• If you are driving, make sure your vehicle has been properly serviced and is in suitable condition for the journey.

• Keep a fully stocked first-aid kit and working flashlight in your vehicle. Pack some extra batteries for your trip, but do not always keep extra batteries in your vehicle, they do not store well in heat.

• Pack extra food and water in case your vehicle breaks down or you experience unforeseen delays.

• Try to have specific directions and routes to your destination.

• If you get lost, call the local police for directions or assistance.

• Keep your vehicle doors and windows locked.

• At stop lights and other traffic delays, leave enough space in front of your vehicle so that you have an escape option in case of an emergency.

• Let someone know the route you intend to travel and your itinerary. This will help authorities in locating you if there is a need to do so.

• Plan your trip carefully and allow for factors such as weather, fatigue, facilities for lodging, food, and fuel.

• Be sure you have sufficient finances; either cash, travelers checks or credit cards.

• Ask the hotel or motel staff about their security measures so you know what to expect.

• Use the hotel safe to store your valuables during your stay.

• If you see something/someone acting suspicious report it to hotel staff.

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