If you are traveling this summer and taking advantage of free Wi-Fi hotspots, double check before connecting your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Scammers use fake Wi-Fi hotspots to steal personal information and/or gain access to your device.
How the Scam Works:
You are at a coffee shop, airport, hotel lobby, or other public place and you want to connect to the Wi-Fi. You search for connections and find one nearby. It may be labeled something generic like "Free Public Wi-Fi." This may look harmless, but don't connect. It is really a scam!
Some fake Wi-Fi hotspots claim to be charging a small fee to use the connection. After a user connects, they are prompted to enter credit card information. Of course, this info is shared with the scammer.
In another version, a hacker inserts him or herself between your computer and the Wi-Fi connection. Everything you do online – such as make a purchase or log into an account – is now transmitted through the scammer's computer. This means they can now access any passwords, credit card information, and other data you've entered online.
Protect Yourself From a Wi-Fi Scam:
Here are some suggestions to safely use public Wi-Fi connections:
Be sure you are using the correct Wi-Fi connection: If you are in a place that offers free Wi-Fi, verify the name of the connection before joining. Scammers often set up fake hotspots next to real ones.
Be careful how you use public Wi-Fi: When using a hotspot to log into an account or make a purchase, be sure the site is fully encrypted (Use "https").
Consider using a VPN: If you regularly access public Wi-Fi, use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the Internet, even on unsecured networks.
Always use antivirus software and a firewall. Protect your computer (and some cell phones) by using anti-virus software and a firewall from a reputable company.
Use good password sense: Protect yourself from hacking by using strong passwords and creating a different password for each account.
For More Information:
Check out these tips from the Federal Trade Commission on using public Wi-Fi networks.
To learn more about scams, go to BBB Scam Tips (bbb.org/scamtips). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).