Use Care When Using Free Public Wi-Fi

Fraud experts warn that the public nature of free Wi-Fi makes users vulnerable to hacking and cyberfraud.

When you connect to free Wi-Fi, you may unwittingly select a fake network or your device might instantly jump to an available Internet network that was set up by a hacker. Once you are on the fake network, the hacker can steal your user id, name and password or take over your smart phone or laptop.

To do this, a hacker sets up a Wi-Fi access point with the same or similar name as a legitimate network you have connected to previously and compels your computer or phone to connect to it automatically without your consent. He monitors commonly used network names, and chooses one — such as “default” or “home” — and banks on your device recognizing it.

Or the hacker will position himself between you and your Wi-Fi connection point. So instead of talking directly with the hotspot, you’re actually sending your information to the hacker, who then sends and receives data impersonating you. Every piece of information you’re sending out on the internet – emails, credit card information and even security credentials – falls all under the hacker’s control.

To protect yourself from cyberfraud when using public Wi-Fi,  AARP’s Fraud Watch Network recommends the following:

  1. Don’t access your email, online bank, or credit card accounts using public Wi-Fi.
  2. Watch out for fake Wi-Fi at coffee shops, hotels, or other places that offer free Wi-Fi. Hackers set up networks with similar names to trick unsuspecting customers.
  3. Don’t let your mobile device automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi.
  4. Don’t surf using an unknown public network if the website requires sensitive information — like online shopping or online banking.

To learn more about protecting yourself from cyberhacking using public Wi-Fi see the entire AARP online article at http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2016/be-wary-of-public-wifi-jj.html