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You May Be Sharing Too Much on Public Wi-Fi

Online scammers squeezed more than $8oo million from Americans last year. (
Online scammers squeezed more than $8oo million from Americans last year. (
August 1, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland residents fall victim to scammers every day, and AARP hopes to head off internet crooks before they have the chance to strike. The organization will be focusing on fraud during the month of August, addressing some of the most common tools scammers use to access sensitive information online.

Jennifer Holz with AARP Maryland described one scam called, "War Driving,” in which a scammer walks or drives around with a smartphone, looking for unlocked or poorly-protected Wi-Fi networks.

"The risk here is that the hacker can actually download the malicious software onto your unprotected system,” Holz said. “And then they can get your personal data, your financial data - all that good stuff."

According to Holz, it’s best to avoid any site that requires a password while using public Wi-Fi. Don't allow your phone to audomatically connect to public Wi-Fi, she said, and change passwords frequently.

Holz described another popular scam, called the "Evil Twin."

"When you go into a restaurant or a hotel or another public space, [the scammers] create a name that looks just like that restaurant or just like that public space, to make it look like that Wi-Fi network belongs to that specific location,” Holz said. "And then, once you connect to that network, you're on their turf."

Another known scam, "Man in the Middle,” involves scammers accessing passwords and other sensitive information by interjecting themselves invisibly between a user and a known or trusted site.

"Say you're shopping online and you're inputting your credit card number,” Holz said. "When you go to click, they can actually create a page that looks exactly like the payment information page of another website, and you're actually typing it into their system."

Cyber-crime cost Americans $800 million in 2015. AARP's Fraud Watch Network website offers helpful tips on how to you can protect yourself while using public Wi-Fi.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD