Folks who bought a Marriott (NYSE:MAR) time share may wind up with more than they bargained for, now that the company is warning Marriott Vacation Club members that backup tapes containing data are missing.

This doesn't mean it's time to panic for the 206,000 associates, time-share owners, and customers whose personal data was on these computer tapes. However, Marriott is offering affected patrons complimentary identity-theft protection and credit-monitoring services.

Marriott isn't alone. Months before ladies' footwear retailer DSW (NYSE:DSW) was set to go public, it was discovered that hackers had broken into its system and had the ability to obtain the credit card transaction information of 1.4 million of its customers.

Other companies, including ChoicePoint (NYSE:CPS) and BJ's Wholesale Club (NYSE:BJ), have also suffered breaches in the past.

But these days, you don't see anyone avoiding DSW when its time to buy a new set of pumps or BJ's when it's time to buy groceries in bulk. That's why Marriott investors are no doubt hoping that this incident won't scar the chain in the future.

However, buying a time share is a big-ticket decision, and the industry has had to win its way into favor gradually. In other words, forgiving and forgetting may not be as easy as Marriott thinks, especially if the information winds up in the wrong hands.

If vacation interval buyers find themselves turning elsewhere for their time-share needs, it may work out well for operators such as Bluegreen (NYSE:BXG), Sunterra (NASDAQ:SNRR), and Cendant's (NYSE:CD) Trendwest Resorts.

If you feel you may be one of the 206,000 affected people, Marriott has set up a website to address the issues and keep the search for the missing tapes updated.

Cendant is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz almost bought a time share once but wound up buying a condo by Disney World instead, to turn a liability into an asset. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.