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Public Wi-Fi can be risky

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Free public Wi-Fi, available at places like airports and coffee shops, is convenient, but can be risky.

Scammers monitor commonly used Wi-Fi network names, and set up their own “evil twin” access points in hopes someone’s computer or device will automatically connect to it without their consent. Or they launch a “man in the middle” attack, by hacking in between a user and their Wi-Fi connection. Their goal? To grab e-mails, credit card numbers, and passwords. Any data sent over free public Wi-Fi is vulnerable, so users should be thoughtful about how they use it.

There are steps people can take to make using Wi-Fi more secure:

— Ask an employee at the location offering free public Wi-Fi for the name of the network. Don’t just assume that “free airport Wi-Fi” is a legitimate wireless network — it could have been set up by a hacker to trick the public into connecting.

— Stick to browsing the web, checking news, weather, or traffic when on public Wi-Fi.

— Avoid online banking, checking e-mails, making credit card purchases, or even posting on social media on public Wi-Fi.

— Check the device’s settings to make sure it doesn’t automatically connect to any free public Wi-Fi that is in range.

— People who use public Wi-Fi regularly should consider signing up for a virtual private network (VPN) that keeps data secure. Some are free, while others charge a subscription.

When it comes to fraud, vigilance is the number one weapon. Individuals have the power to protect themselves and their loved ones from scams.

Report scams to local law enforcement. Contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork for more information on fraud prevention. — from AARP.

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