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April 20--SOUTHEASTERN N.C. -- Cyber thieves have struck nearly 1,200 U.S. hotels operated by the parent company of Holiday Inn, including several in Eastern North Carolina, raising fears that customer billing information could have been compromised.

According to a release from InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), malware designed to access payment card data was found on computers at the front desks of the hotels. The company believes the computer virus accessed customer information -- read from the credit card's magnetic strip -- between September 29 and December 29.

"Although there is no evidence of unauthorized access to payment card data after December 29, 2016, confirmation that the malware was eradicated did not occur until the properties were investigated in February and March 2017," the release states.

Among the hotels in Southeastern N.C. the company identified as being hacked were the Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites in Jacksonville. The malware also was found on computers of hotels in nearly 40 other North Carolina cities, including Southport, Leland, Wallace and New Bern.

The hotel operator recommends customers pay close attention to their credit card statements and report any unauthorized charges to their credit card company.

"Payment card network rules generally state that cardholders are not responsible for such charges," the release states.

Besides Holiday Inn and Staybridge, other hotel brands operated by IHG are InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo and Candlewood.

To see a complete list of the 1,200 hotels where malware was found, go to www.ihg.com/content/us/en/customer-care/protecting-our-guests/property-listing.

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