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Trump now says he misspoke as he stood side-by-side with Putin. Also on the Wednesday rundown: A Senate committee looks at the latest attempt to weaken the Endangered Species Act; and public input is being sought on Great Lakes restoration.

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A Cost to Free Wi-Fi? Experts Say Use with Caution

It may be free, but public Wi-Fi can come with a price to a person's privacy and Internet security. Credit: Frank MacDonald/Morguefile.
It may be free, but public Wi-Fi can come with a price to a person's privacy and Internet security. Credit: Frank MacDonald/Morguefile.
September 1, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. – There can be a high price to pay for the ease of "free" Wi-Fi at your favorite coffee shop or hotel lobby. A new AARP Fraud Watch Network report warns con artists often set up fake networks in public places.

Watchdog Sophia McAllister with AARP says hackers can easily steal personal information on a public Wi-Fi network – and wreak havoc on your life.

"It can take years, it can take lots of money, it can be agonizing when you are saddled with debt that someone else has incurred with your name, your social security number," she says.

Young or old, Internet scammers don't discriminate, and nearly half of the survey respondents failed a quiz about online and wireless safety. One out of four adults who took the survey say they use "free" Wi-Fi once a week. McAllister recommends never using public Wi-Fi, especially for banking or shopping because that's where hackers are lurking.

If you do choose to use public Wi-Fi, you can also use a VPN, or virtual private network, that creates a private "tunnel" which encrypts your data as it passes over the network. You can also use your cell phone and create a "hot spot" in a public area that's available to you.

McAllister also warns those using Internet dating websites to be careful, outlining a few cautionary signs.

"If someone starts immediately asking for more personal information, an email address, or a phone number," she says. "If someone starts professing love almost immediately. There are many actions that people need to be wary of."

Only two out of 10 people surveyed were aware of the most up-to-date security for their home Wi-Fi network. McAllister says WPA2 wireless encryption is best and also suggests ensuring all passwords are strong.

"Make sure your network is protected. Change your passwords frequently. It's recommended that every 90 days you change all your passwords," she says. "The other thing is don't use the same password for all of your accounts."

Even if the password is a complex mix of letters, numbers and symbols, McAllister says it's no safer.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC