Spot the Scam: Public Wi-Fi Scams

HOST, JORDAN MURPHY: Wi-Fi is just about everywhere these days. You can get it at the gym, a restaurant, a hotel or even the grocery store.  But public Wi-Fi gives scammers a lot more opportunities to hack into and steal your private information.  That’s why we’re here… to help you Spot the Scam.

Public Wi-Fi can be a scammers playground. With one Wi-Fi signal, scammers can intercept the information that you’re sending and receiving from the internet and you won’t even know it’s happening. It’s especially dangerous if you use public Wi-Fi to access your bank online, pay your bills, or use social media, because scammers can pick up valuable personal information. To learn more, we asked information security expert, Darren Kitchen, to walk us through it.

DARREN KITCHEN: Public Wi-Fi is not secure because it’s public. In the same way that you can walk into a ballroom full of crowded people and yell across the room, everyone around you has the capability to eavesdrop on what everyone else is doing. So when you go to a public place with Wi-Fi, they have really simple network names like cafe Wi-Fi, or hotel Wi-Fi, whatever it is, it’s simple for an attacker to just name their access point the same exact thing. This is called an evil twin attack.

JORDAN MURPHY: OK.

DARREN KITCHEN: And because your computer is used to just automatically connecting to those, it’ll choose whichever one has the stronger signal. So if you’re nearby a scammer with one of these set up maliciously, you could be tricked into accidentally connecting to the wrong one.

JORDAN MURPHY: Wow.

JORDAN MURPHY: So how can we protect ourselves from being scammed? Here are a few key points to remember. If you’re connecting to public Wi-Fi, don’t access your email, social media, online bank, or credit card accounts. Your passwords and account information are all vulnerable to being hacked. Watch out for fake Wi-Fi at coffee shops, hotels, or other places that offer it for free.

Con artists set up networks with similar names to trick unsuspecting customers. Talk to an employee or a representative and just make sure that you’re accessing the correct network. Don’t let your mobile device automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi. Make sure your devices are set to connect only when you tell it to.

Thanks for watching. I’m Jordan Murphy, here to help you spot the scam, so you can stop the scam. Stay up-to-date on all the latest scams and get free tools to protect yourself and your family at the AARP Fraud Watch Network.