A Chicago woman is suing Hilton Worldwide for $100 million after she said a hotel employee took nude footage of her without her knowledge or consent and posted it online. The alleged perpetrator also sent the footage to the woman’s colleagues and repeatedly attempted to extort her with it, the suit alleges.
The woman, identified only as Jane Doe in the suit, told Good Morning America that the culprit had used a hidden camera to film her in the shower while she was staying at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Albany, New York, in 2015. She said she’d been completely unaware of the intrusion, however, until this September when she received an email with a link to a pornographic website where the video had been uploaded. The title of the video was the woman’s full name, she alleges.
“I click on it and I see my face and profile in a bathroom and I start screaming,” the woman told GMA. “It was devastating on kind of a cellular level because I didn’t know ... I had no clue, I had no context for this.”
“My initial reaction was, ’Your life is absolutely ruined, people are going to see this, they are going to see you naked and they are going to assume things,’” she added.
The woman said her nightmare had only just begun. She soon received more emails from the same email address demanding that she send over explicit footage of herself. If she complied, the emailer promised to “disappear and remove the videos forever before they get copied on every website.”
When she didn’t respond, the suspect instructed the woman to pay $2,000 up front and then $1,000 a month for a year, the suit alleges. After she failed to pay, she said the alleged extortionist emailed the video to her colleagues and posted it on at least a dozen pornographic websites, NBC News reported.
The woman’s attorney, Roland Christiansen, said all evidence suggests an employee of Hampton Inn or “someone with direct access to the rooms” is the perpetrator in the case.
15 things you should never, ever do in a hotel room
15 things you should never, ever do in a hotel room
Steal the bathrobes
"Guests sometimes take home essential amenities that the hotel provides during their stay, like shampoo, lotion, and other vanity products," says Ryazan Tristram, photographer and travel blogger for everythingzany.com. "However, people sometimes take home the bathrobes as well, which is a no-no." You could be charged extra or fined for taking pricier items, including linens, artwork, and electronics. Find out what you can take from hotel rooms without getting in trouble.
Break something and lie about it
Accidents happen, but damaging something in your room and keeping it a secret can actually harm staff or future guests. Matthew, founder of thetravelblogs.com, says a guest once cut his foot on a shard of glass. "[Glass is] very hard to spot, even if you know it is there, so although the room was cleaned, there was one piece that the housekeeper missed," he says. "We ended up comping that man's night in the hotel all because the previous guest didn't make the team aware of broken glass in his room."
Cook anything without a proper kitchen area
"We always want to save money when we travel," says Tristram. "Some guests will bring their portable cooking appliances with them during their stay, and this can cause a few problems, primarily if the hotel room doesn't have any kitchenette area." These cooking appliances can set off a hotel's fire alarm system or cause an actual fire, so stick with no-cook meals if you want to save a few bucks on food. Find out 9 ways to travel cheap, according to travel agents.
Leave important jewelry in your suitcase or dresser
Hospitality businesses can't always stop thieves from putting their sticky fingers where they don't belong, so don't leave your precious jewels, wallets, or purses in your room, unless it's in a hotel-provided safe, says a Farmers Insurance Group representative. Your homeowners or renters policy may provide coverage for your belongings while you are traveling, so it's important to report any lost or stolen items as soon as possible. Don't miss these other tips for protecting your belongings in a hotel.
Keep your bathroom door ajar when taking a shower
There's nothing wrong with enjoying a steamy shower at a hotel, but beware what the vapor can do if released into your room. "A hotel's hot showers can cause a lot of steam, and as a result, can trigger the hotel's fire alarm system inside your bedroom if you leave the bathroom door open," says Tristram. Learn 22 tips for making your hotel stay as safe and healthy as possible.
Cover up smoke alarms
Certain hotels still allow smokers to smoke cigarettes inside their rooms. Despite this, some guests insist on smoking in non-smoking rooms. The biggest problem: Guests who do this cover the smoke alarm so they can smoke in bed, risking their safety and that of all other guests, says Bryony Summer, owner and editor of coastingaustralia.com.
Forget to inspect the bed
Even the finest hotels and housekeepers can't keep creepy critters from making their way into bedrooms. "I always advise travelers to put their luggage in the bathtub until they inspect the bed for bedbugs," says Mitch Krayton of Krayton Travel. Think hotel beds are dirty? Learn the 11 germiest spots in every hotel room.
Restock the minibar
There's no crime in enjoying a drink from the hotel fridge. After all, that's their purpose. "But if you plan on taking a bottle of whiskey out of there, just accept that you'll still be paying for it," says Sophia Borghese, a consultant for La Galerie Hotel in New Orleans. "Don't try to fake the hotel staff out by replacing the liquor with a half-sipped bottle of Diet Coke. This happens more often than you might think, and those who do it still get charged for taking that $30, two-ounce bottle of spirits."
Boil your undies in the kettle
Funny? Yes. Disturbing? Absolutely. Has it actually happened? You bet. After 12 years of managing, Summer says the worst thing she came across was having guests boil their underwear in kettles, pots, or steamers to "freshen them up." Check out the 13 craziest things people have seen in hotel rooms.
Use the throw pillows
"If you notice the throw pillows on the bed or the couch have no removable sleeves, you can be sure they are never thoroughly cleaned," says Kashlee Kucheran, seasoned traveler and co-owner of traveloffpath.com. "After they get so stained or smelly that they become offensive, the hotel will just replace them. In the meantime, you can bet there have been many faces, bottoms, and other things lounging on those pillows, so steer clear!"
"No one should ever, ever send any sensitive information or conduct any important business over hotel Wi-Fi—at least not without encryption," says Harold Li, vice president of ExpressVPN. "Given how easy it is to hack public Wi-Fi hotspots, you might as well be yelling your passwords and bank details down the hall." Travelers should use encryption to shield their Internet activity when sending important information.
Forget that you recently dyed your hair
As a courtesy to the hotel, you might want to wait until you get home before you change the hue of your 'do. "The ruined towels and bed linens are unrecoverable," says Leslie Mulcahy, co-owner of Rabbit Hill Inn in Vermont. If you have recently dyed your hair, avoid washing your hair—or bring your own towel or disposable sheets to wrap your hair until it dries. On that note, you might want to bring your own hairdryer after hearing the gross reason you should avoid hotel hair dryers.
Walk with heavy feet
Loud music and voices aren't the only things you should keep in check when you're in a hotel room. "In my experience, no matter how luxurious a hotel is, they are still built with materials that don't allow a lot of soundproofing, especially from upstairs guests," says Kucheran. Avoid walking around with weighty steps so you don't become "that annoying guest."
Sneak in your pets
It's tempting to bring your furry friends on trips with you, but don't do it without asking if the hotels you're staying in are pet-friendly. If the answer is "no," don't try to pull a fast one on the staff—animals leave trails of evidence, from hairs to prints to smells, and your cleaning fees will skyrocket if you've broken the rules. Check out these other 21 secrets hotel clerks won't tell you.
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Christiansen told GMA that he knows of at least one other hidden camera video of another guest in the same room as his client.
We “have reason to believe there is a significant amount of others and that this room that my client stayed in was used repeatedly to film people over an extended period,” Christiansen said.
A spokesman for Hampton Inn and Suites Albany-Downtown told AP that they were shocked by the allegations detailed in the suit. No recording devices were found during a recent renovation of the property, the rep said, but stressed the hotel would work closely with authorities to find the suspect.
Hilton Worldwide, which owns Hampton Inn, said in a statement that it was committed “to supporting the independent ownership and management of the property as they investigate, respond, and cooperate with any law enforcement investigations.”