The Dangers of Free Wi-Fi: Use Caution Warns The Better Business Bureau

June 30, 2014

CHICAGO, IL – June 30, 2014 – On the Fourth of July weekend, you should be able to sit back and relax and not worry about your identity being stolen. Unfortunately, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has received reports of scammers trying to collect personal information by creating unsecured Wi-Fi zones near hotels, which guests can connect to for free.

“Checking emails and going on social media are common things to do on vacations,” says Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “However, if you connect to an unsecure Wi-Fi connection, one that is not encrypted, you are letting the owner of the connection see all of your personal information. This could include banking information, addresses, personal information and other Internet browsing activity.”

The BBB offers the following advice for vacationers looking to connect to Wi-Fi zones:

  • Use extreme caution when connecting to Wi-Fi on vacation. Connecting to free Wi-Fi zones can endanger you because of the transparency between your device and the owner of the connection. If you must connect to the internet, use the hotel’s Wi-Fi, as it is less likely to be hacked.
  • Avoid Wi-Fi connections near conferences or large events. If there is a big event going on near your location, be wary of Wi-Fi connections, since criminals look at these events as opportunities to gather personal information of individuals.
  • Make sure your computer is not set up to automatically connect to networks. If you are set up to connect to networks, you could be connecting to an unknown, unsecured network without knowing it.
  • Make sure your firewall is enabled. A firewall helps protect your computer from unauthorized users gaining access by way of the internet or a connection. This can help decrease the likelihood of criminals installing viruses and Trojans on your device.
  • Do important online work, such as banking, at home if possible. If you are using Wi-Fi, avoid using it for tasks such as banking. Financial activity is one of the key activities hackers are looking for. Save that for home or on your mobile device.

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The BBB is a non-profit, non-governmental organization.  It is supported by businesses to protect consumers against scams and other unethical business practices.  The group accomplishes this by educating both consumers and businesses, and by highlighting trustworthy businesses. By developing reports and ratings on businesses and charitable organizations, the BBB encourages people to use these as resources and referrals to utilize the free services before making a purchase or donation. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints through its alternative dispute resolution process. In 2013, the BBB provided more than 22,600,000 instances of service.  Over 80 percent of consumer complaints to the BBB were resolved. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is a member of the international BBB system that services the United States, Canada and Mexico.