There's a secret code thieves use to break into hotel room safes

No matter where you stay, your hotel room will most likely provide a safe for your valuables. Whether it's located atop the mini bar or stored away in the closet, these safes are pretty standard when it comes to hotel room amenities -- they offer guests a peace of mind when they leave their rooms.

However, it seems like your hotel room safe may not be safe. According to reports, there's a master code thieves can use to break into to steal your prized possessions. Youtuber LockPickingLawyer recently revealed how this works in a now-viral video. 

In the video, you see the user place a bottle of whiskey into the safe. He closes the door to the safe, inputs a 4-digit passcode followed by "lock." It's locked and the user is unable to unlock the safe with any other 4-digit number. 

Related: Annoy these hotel fees

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Sneaky hotel fees and how to avoid them
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Sneaky hotel fees and how to avoid them

Hotel Occupancy Tax

Hotel occupancy taxes could appear on your bill under other names such as a hotel lodging tax, tourist tax, room tax or sales tax, according to Suiteness, an online booking platform with an inventory of luxury suites. These taxes, levied for each night’s stay in a hotel, funnel tourist dollars to state and local government coffers, and can add a little — or a lot — to your bill.

Pay Less on Your Trip: 20 Secret Ways to Save on Your Next Hotel Stay

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How to Avoid the Hotel Occupancy Tax

While hotel customers can’t totally avoid these taxes, there are ways to cut costs. Lodging tax rates vary by city and state, so travelers who are flexible about where they stay can shop around for lower lodging taxes.

For instance, 2015 tax rates in Chicago came in at 16.22 percent compared with just 9 percent in its suburb of Aurora, Ill., according to a report from HVS Convention, Sports and Entertainment Consulting. Likewise, the 2015 tax rate in San Francisco was 16.25 percent compared with a rate of 14 percent across the Bay Bridge in Oakland.

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Resort Fees

These fees can cover amenities that many frequent travelers consider standard, such as high-speed internet access or use of computers and printers in a property’s business center. Beyond the basics, resort fees might give guests access to everything from mountain bikes to mixology classes, as does the $50 per room resort fee levied for each night’s stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain in Arizona.

But what if you have no plans to go on a guided morning walk or try out a group fitness class at the property’s Movement Studio?

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How to Avoid Resort Fees

Tristan Seymour, managing director for the hotel and bed and breakfast reservation site Lodging World, recommends researching resort fees early in your travel planning process.

“When booking a room, make sure to find out what sort of fees are charged, and ask if you will be charged even if you don’t use them,” he said. “When you receive your bill, make sure you go through it entirely and dispute anything you don’t agree with.’’

The site ResortFeeChecker is a good place to start when ferreting out fees.

More Travel Tips: Don’t Make These Costly Mistakes When Booking Summer Travel

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Housekeeping Fee or Mandatory Gratuity

Some hotels and resorts automatically add gratuities to guests’ tabs. For instance, the Atlantis Paradise Island resort complex in the Bahamas levies a mandatory gratuity of anywhere from $9.50 to $50 per person, per day, depending on the guests’ unit type and location within the property. So it makes sense to check who gets paid from that pool of dollars. 

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How to Avoid Extra Gratuities

Seymour understands the desire to leave tips for hard-working housekeepers and other hotel staffers. “However, some hotels automatically add a 5 to 10 percent housekeeping gratuity onto your bill,” he said. “So, before leaving any tips, check your bill first.”

How Much Should You Tip? Get the Insider Secrets of Tipping Etiquette

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Early Check-In Fee

Many hotels will accommodate requests for an early check-in, but travelers shouldn’t assume that extra hour or so comes without a cost. For example, Treasure Island in Las Vegas offers priority check-in starting at 10 a.m. for $30 plus tax, according to the hotel’s website. It’s also worth noting some spots also levy a late checkout fee, with Treasure Island getting $30 plus tax from guests who linger past 11 a.m.

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How to Avoid Early Check-In Fees

Keani Aabel, who runs the travel blog keanitravel, recommends asking about early check-in fees before arriving at the front desk. Even if staffers won’t waive an early check-in fee, many hotels will at least hold your bags for free.

“I would advise to call ahead to warn the hotel of your early arrival,” she said. “With advance notice, they can check if there is a room available for you. If all else fails, hotels can hold your luggage while you grab lunch or a drink for your room to be ready." 

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Hotel WiFi Fees

Although many hotels offer free in-room WiFi, guests shouldn’t take it for granted. For example, SIXTY Beverly Hills in California charges $15 a day for wireless internet access. However, that fee is waived for those booking their rooms directly through the hotel’s phone or online reservation system.

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How to Avoid Hotel WiFi Fees

Seek out special offers and promo codes. For instance, SIXTY in Beverly Hills during June was advertising a summer sale on its site offering potential guests a 15 percent booking discount and free WiFi if they book directly through the SIXTY site.

Many hotel chains also offer free internet access to members of their rewards programs. One example is Marriott, which gives its rewards members free WiFi when they book directly through the company or participating hotel website and mention their Marriott Rewards number when making a reservation. This perk is one of the reasons Marriott has one of the best hotel rewards programs.

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Room Upgrade Fees

Upgraded rooms or club access can offer premium perks for travelers who want to treat themselves. For instance, the Island Club upgrade at the Island Hotel at Newport Beach gives guests access to amenities in the property’s 20th-floor lounge, including better breakfasts, as well as free snacks during certain times. Other perks, such as a dedicated concierge and curbside check in, come with the Island Club fee of $50 per day for up for two guests.

National chains such Sheraton offer some similar services through club lounges, and those creature comforts can be worth the cost for many customers. But don’t get stuck with an unwanted upgrade, said Houston-based travel agent Michelle Weller of retail travel agency Travel Leaders.

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How to Avoid Room Upgrade Fees

Hotels will occasionally offer upgrades at check in, and it can be easy for hurried and harried hotel customers to assume they’ll be completely free.

“Sometimes you get offered a free upgrade, but when you go to check out, the room rate goes up,” Weller said. “Always verify rates.”

Get a Free Upgrade: Travel Experts Reveal Their Secrets to Scoring Free Perks

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Safe Fee or Surprising Minibar Charges

Some hotels charge a fee for guests to stash stuff in the in-room safe. This often hidden fee is sometimes bundled into the resort fee. When it appears as a separate item, it typically adds a couple of bucks a night to your room rate. Likewise, some properties charge guests for items they remove from the in-room “refreshment center" or minibar.

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How to Avoid Safe and Minibar Fees

The safe fee can be difficult to dispute at checkout, according to Olga Maria Czarkowski, who operates the travel and lifestyle blog Dreams in Heels. It’s important to educate yourself about the hotel’s fees and address them even before entering your room for the first time.

“If there is a safe fee, and you don't plan to use the safe, tell them to lock it to avoid the fee,” she said.

Similarly, guests might want to request the front desk cut off access to the in-room refreshment center to head off any headaches at checkout time.

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Hotel Parking Fees

Valet parking fees are the norm at many hotels, especially those in prime urban locations. But some charge stiff self-parking fees, too. For instance, self-parking fees at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch are $29 a day compared with $39 for valet service.

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How to Avoid Hotel Parking Fees

Hotel guests can rethink rental cars and opt for Uber or public transportation to avoid this expense. Shopping around for friendlier fees is another option.

For one, the self-parking fee at the Hilton at the Ballpark in St. Louis is $27 while the valet fee is $38. And nearby lots and garages offer significant savings to savvy travelers willing to walk a few extra blocks between their hotel and car.

Don't Miss: Worst Fees in America — And How to Avoid Them

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Yet, it's LockPickingLawyer's next move that leaves many worried. Upon pressing "lock," the safe goes into "super user mode." He enters the code (999999), which unlocks the safe. The code is meant for hotel staff to assist guests in case they get locked out -- but now, it's common knowledge. 

Explained the user, "it might be a good idea to make sure the hotel reset the administrator password before relying on it to protect your goods."

While it's unknown if the master code will work on safes other than Safloks, which happens to be one of the most popular safes in hotels, it still presents a big problem for the hotel industry and its guests. 

Related: Places with hidden cameras

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7 places with hidden cameras
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7 places with hidden cameras

ATMs

You probably know your bank’s branch has security cameras watching to make sure thieves don’t steal your account information, but not all cameras are used for good. Thieves can hide cameras under fake covers that have tiny holes to record through, like the ones found recently in London ATMs. Those cameras record you as you punch in your PIN. Most ATMs are safe from the hidden cameras, but if you notice anything fishy that looks like the machine could have been tampered with, pick another place to withdraw cash. Don't miss this other sneaky way hackers can steal ATM information from far away.

Elevators

An empty elevator seems like an exceptionally private place to dig something out of your teeth or adjust your panties, but there could still be eyes on you. Look at the ceiling and you might spot a security camera keeping a watchful eye. (Make sure someone doesn't catch you breaking these 11 elevator etiquette rules.) It’s clear why they can help, catching incidents of violence instead of letting aggressors hide behind closed doors. For instance, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was cut from the team after a video of him striking his now-wife in an elevator was released. You do have some degree of privacy, though. Elevator cameras can’t record sound, which would violate federal wiretapping laws, and they are always high up instead of at eye level, according to The Atlantic.

School bus

For obvious reasons, schools need to take precautions to protect their students, like keeping doors locked and requiring visitors to check in. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, three-quarters of schools also use security cameras. (No joke: One school even found a ghost on camera.) While you might be unsurprised (and relieved!) to see cameras watching entrances and hallways, you might not realize just how many cameras some schools have. Some districts have added cameras in buses, classrooms, and other areas, according to NPR. Check out these other 33 things teachers won't tell you.

Traffic light

Looking up to see a camera watching every car that goes by might seem a bit Big Brother, but they have their uses, and you can tell what it is just by looking at it. Some cameras monitor traffic, while others catch drivers running red lights. Signal control cameras are small cameras on top of traffic lights, and they replace sensors that used to be cut into pavement. They can’t move around, and their quality is only good enough to sense if a vehicle is there and the light should change, but it’s not strong enough to take a picture of a license plate, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation. Cameras that can bust you for running a red are bigger and are mounted near—but not on—traffic lights, according to nj.com. If a cop pulls you over in person, steal these 10 rules for avoiding a speeding ticket.

Laptop

Sure, you already know your laptop has a camera. But here’s the question: Is it recording you without you knowing? Creepily enough, it might be. Hackers can use malware to turn on another person’s laptop camera remotely to record you without your knowledge. Luckily, you can keep your privacy intact by learning how to keep hackers from recording you through your own computer.

Hospital room 

Cameras in hospital patient rooms aren’t the HIPAA violation you might think. Because there are safety issues at hand, hospitals are allowed to install security cameras in patients’ rooms. Fujitsu even developed a camera that can recognize when a patient sits up or even has a restless night’s sleep. Check out these other 50 secrets hospitals are keeping from you.

Hotel rooms

Thankfully, this is another rare case—but it could happen. Guests have been horrified to find hidden cameras in hotel rooms and Airbnb rentals without having given any consent. Hotels won't put cameras in rooms, and hidden surveillance devices are against Airbnb's rules. (At your own house, learn these 20 secrets home security companies won't tell you.) The chance of someone breaking those rules are rare, but you can still keep an eye out when you’re traveling. Look out for holes in devices like alarm clocks and smoke detectors, or in objects you don’t always see in hotel rooms, like bouquets of flowers, security expert Chris Falkenberg recommends to CBS News. Learn more about how to prevent spying at hotels.

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