In the spirit of Cybersecurity Awareness Month and in the wake of several large data breaches, the BBB would like to remind you to double-check before connecting to free wi-fi hotspots. Scammers can sometimes 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 places, 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.
To protect yourself from a wi-fi scam -
- 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 - Look for "https". Always avoid websites that could expose your passwords or financial information to cyberthieves when using public wi-fi.
- 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.