Theft of Fresno hotel's key card encoder caught on camera

FRESNO, Calif.

It happened at their location near Herndon and Highway 99 in Northwest Fresno around 1:45 p.m. Tuesday. The security video shows a man pacing back and forth, and then makes his move for an item on the front desk.

Alejandra Selgado was working the desk that day and says the man seemed normal and even tried to strike up conversation before committing the crime.

"It happened so quickly," she said. "I didn't even have time to react."

The thief took off with the hotel's electronic key card encoder. The hotel uses the device to activate the electronic room cards for people staying at the hotel.

"Nowadays with technology, what you can do it -- the possibilities are endless," Selgado said.

But Daniel Daccarett with SurvAlarm Technologies in Fresno says the possibilities with an encoder are pretty limited.

First of all, it's unlikely the thief can make duplicate cards and enter rooms.

"You need to have some knowledge in this type of equipment," Decarrett said. "You probably need to do some reverse engineering, some really hard things to do, if you want to encode different information in cards."

And as far as private information from guests, Decarrett says encoders don't typically store any of that.

"They're going to store some basic information," he explained. "It's going to be the room number and probably just the length of stay in the hotel. There's not going to be any personal information of the customer, no credit card or anything like that."

The manager at the Hampton Inn reiterated the same message to Action News. The loss of the key card encoder was more of an inconvenience for guests than anything else. Staff had to open doors for visitors until the hotel got a new encoder on Friday.

Mangers say key card encoders are expensive, but it's difficult to know why the thief targeted the equipment.

"Maybe he got confused," Daccarett hypothesized. "Maybe he thought it was a credit card reader or something else. I don't think he can use it for anything, unless he's going to open a new hotel, but nothing to do any damage."

Police say there haven't been other reports of encoders being taken from hotels.

Managers at the Hampton Inn say they are no longer keeping their new encoder in plain sight and they are encouraging other hotels to adopt the practice.

If you recognize the man in the video posted above, you're asked to call Fresno Police Department.

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