Woman Steals Car From Hotel Valet Using The Oldest Hacking Trick In The Book

When you want to try out a car, Turo – the Airbnb of rental cars – has a much wider selection than your local Hertz. I’d suggest searching what they have for rent, rather than doing what Kaytlyn Elizabeth Fenton allegedly pulled off in my home town of Austin: picking up a car she wanted from a hotel’s valet.

About a month ago I was in Orlando and I was upgraded to a suite that was basically two hotel rooms. There were two doors. I went to my room, locked one of the doors, and went out the other. I went up to the club lounge, and when I returned I couldn’t get into my room. I had only been keyed to one of the two rooms – the one I had locked from the inside.

I went down to the front desk and said my key only worked in one of the doors, I had locked that door, and would they make a new key for me? They went ahead and did so. They didn’t ask me for any ID (my wallet was up in the room). I don’t look like a troublemaker, and people naturally want to be helpful. That’s why social engineering – the oldest hacking trick in the book – is more effective for hacking than brute force attacks unless you have the computing power of the NSA.

Ms. Fenton seemed to understand this lesson intuitively.

  • She went down to valet parking at the Homewood Suites Austin Downtown and gave what she said was her room number. She was sympathetic. She explained that “she had lost all of her belongings” in the nearby bar district the previous night.

  • The valet believed her story, and gave her the car she asked for.

When the car’s real owner went to collect the vehicle, she learned it was already gone. The hotel’s surveillance video showed the woman who picked up the car. That’s how she was identified.

Police said the surveillance video captured Fenton walk in and out of the hotel’s lobby several times before she began talking to a valet attendant. Shortly afterward, the victim’s car was delivered to her along with the keys.

Based on the video, police said they were able to identify Fenton as the suspect.

Kaytlyn Fenton “is in custody at the Travis County Correctional Complex” and had bond set at $15,000. Turo would have been cheaper.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Valet services pretty much claim no liability for, well, anything they do. Any idea if they would be responsible for giving someone’s car away?

  2. Let’s not call a short grift a “hack.” Let’s also not use the word “hack” to describe neat little tips about managing adult life.

    Don’t become one of those people, Gary. We already have too many of them.

    This was a scam, a con, a theft, a felony. Not a hack.

  3. @Mallthus: That really happened in my city. Some guy pretending to be the valet for the Residence Inn Downtown took off with an unsuspecting traveler’s car, quite effortlessly.

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