A new AARP survey of Internet users shows that the freedom and convenience of public wireless networks may come at a cost. A free Wi-Fi network at an airport, hotel or coffee shop is convenient, but without a secure network, Americans can be vulnerable to attacks by con artists and hackers.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network’s “Watch Your Wi-Fi” campaign gives Mainers the information they need to stay connected without sacrificing their personal security.

A newly launched cyber scam website, www.aarp.org/watchyourwifi, features “Four Things Never to Do on Public Wi-Fi:”

• Don’t fall for a fake: Con artists often set up unsecure networks with names similar to a legitimate coffee shop, hotel or other free Wi-Fi network.

• Mind your business: Don’t access your email, online bank or credit card accounts using public Wi-Fi.

• Watch your settings: Don’t let your mobile device automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi.

• Stick to your cell: Don’t surf using an unknown public network if the website requires sensitive information, such as you provide during online shopping. Your cell phone network is safer.

There are also simple steps each of us can take to keep our sensitive information safe online. For example, almost a third of survey respondents report not having a passcode on their smart phones, putting them at high-risk should their device be lost or stolen. Forty-five percent reported not updating their online passwords in the last 90 days. While maintaining unique passwords for each account and changing them on a regular basis may be inconvenient, this is an important step in keeping personal accounts safe online.

Watch Your Wi-Fi is a great place to start if you want to learn how to be your own best scam and fraud fighter.

Michael Parent, volunteer

AARP Maine Fraud Watch Network

Portland


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