Public Wi-Fi is convenient, yet dangerous. Because the connection is public, it's accessible to anyone. Public Wi-Fi offers no privacy. If you reveal your credit card information through public Wi-Fi, you're leaving yourself vulnerable to hackers. Even if the Wi-Fi connection is in a library or place of business, hackers and criminals could be lurking and waiting to steal your information.
Using Your Credit Card
When you connect to a public Wi-Fi network, you're sharing the connection with other people using the network. Although it's convenient for browsing the Web, it's not safe for banking, shopping or paying bills. Because hackers can view what you're doing while using the public connection, it's wise to keep your personal information private.
Why It's Not Safe
Wi-Fi signals are similar to radio waves. If a hacker is within a certain range of the public network, he can spy on the information you are sending and receiving. With the right knowledge and software programs, a hacker can see exactly what you are doing on the web, whether it's updating your social networks or paying your utility bills. When using a public Wi-Fi connection, you are basically announcing everything you're doing and hoping no one is listening.
Fake Hot Spots
According to Eweek.com, hackers commonly pretend to be a hot spot. If a "free" Wi-Fi hot spot requests your personal information or credit card to connect, this should raise red flags and signal that something isn't right. However, not all fake hot spots ask for your information because they can obtain it when you begin browsing the Web. The hackers may even use the same name as the legitimate access point to make the fraudulent hot spot more difficult to detect. Unless you're positive you are using a secure hot spot, avoid entering your personal information or using your credit card. Because hackers can access your passwords, don't log into your email or other accounts.
Keeping Your Identity Private
Not only should you avoid using your credit card via public Wi-Fi, but it's also wise to protect your identity. If a hacker discovers your name and Social Security number, he could assume your identity and open new credit cards in your name. Avoid entering any sensitive information or opening emails that include the information. If your information has been intercepted, you won't even know it until it's too late.
- The Guardian: 20 Ways to Keep Your Internet Identity Safe From Hackers
- ABC 15: Alert: Thieves Create Fake Hotel Wi-Fi Hot Spots to Steal Your Information
- CBS News: Dangers of Free Public WiFi
- USA Today: Free WiFi - Beware of Security Risks
- City of San Diego Police. "Wi-Fi Hacking and Hotspot Dangers." Accessed Jan. 7, 2020
- Federal Trade Commission. "Tips for Using Public Wi-Fi Networks." Accessed Jan. 7, 2020
- Federal Communications Commission. "Wireless Connections and Bluetooth Security Tips." Accessed Jan. 7, 2020
Jeannine Mancini, a Florida native, has been writing business and personal finance articles since 2003. Her articles have been published in the Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida.