> Online Fraud: Using Public Wireless Internet Access
Online Fraud: Using Public Wireless Internet Access
What is public wireless Internet access or Wi-Fi?
Wireless Internet access, or Wi-Fi, is often available for free in public locations, such as coffee shops, hotel lobbies and airports. When you are near a Wi-Fi access point (often called a hotspot), you can use a device such as a laptop computer or smartphone to connect to the Internet without using any wires.
Types of Wi-Fi access
There are two main types of Wi-Fi access:
Secure: you need a username and password to access the Internet
Unsecure: anyone can access the Internet for free
Even if you use a secure network, there is no guarantee that you will be protected. When using free public Wi-Fi, you need to be careful about what sites you visit and what information you share during your Internet session. Wi-Fi hotspots are good for Internet browsing, but are not a good place to do your online banking or shopping since they usually have weak security.
How does online fraud happen when using Wi-Fi?
When you use unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots, it is like leaving your car doors unlocked. You make yourself an easier target for thieves. However, even if you use secure public Wi-Fi access, fraudsters may target you eventually.
Fraudsters may try to mislead you into using a “fake” network access that appears to be a real hotspot so they can try to steal your personal and financial information. For instance, they may change one letter in the name of the wireless network you are searching for. So instead of accessing “FreeWiFi” in your hotel lobby, you may mistakenly access the fake “FreeeWiFi” (with an extra “e” in the name). Once you are using this fake Internet access, fraudsters can capture your browsing history and any information that you enter.
When using public Wi-Fi hotspots, you could also expose yourself to packet sniffers. Thieves using packet sniffers want your banking details and your personal information, such as your name, address or phone number. These personal details may be harmless on their own, but once they are combined, you can be at a higher risk for fraud.
How to reduce your risks
Guard any files on your computer that contain financial information by protecting them with passwords.
Don’t enter banking or credit card information, send confidential e‑mails or share any sensitive information when using public Wi-Fi, especially if the site is unsecured. If you absolutely must enter your financial information, make sure there is a lock symbol in the browser window and that the site’s address begins with “https” (the “s” stands for secured).
When using a Wi-Fi network, try not to visit sites that require you to enter a password, especially if the site is unsecured.
Turn on enhanced security on your Internet browser, personal email and social networking sites. Within the program or site, search for the term “enhanced security” for help in adjusting your security settings.
Turn off file sharing and printer sharing on your computer.
Run up-to-date anti-virus software, anti-adware and a firewall on your computer. Make sure your firewall is turned on.
Do not allow cookies or pop-ups and set your browser to block dangerous sites or warn you if a site is considered a high risk.
When you log into a network access point, make sure the name is correct to avoid getting tricked into visiting a fake site set up to steal your information.
Change your passwords as soon as you are on a secure Internet connection. It is a good habit to change your passwords on a regular basis and to have different passwords for different applications, such as e‑mail, online banking and social networking sites.
If you are using a public or shared computer, be sure to erase the history and temporary Internet files before you leave.
What to do if you become a victim
If you think you are a victim of fraud, take the following steps:
Start a written log: write down when you noticed the fraud and the actions you took, including names of people you spoke to and dates of communications.
File a report with your local police.
Contact your financial institutions and any other companies (for example, phone company, cable provider, etc.) where your accounts were tampered with, or are at risk of being tampered with.
If you become a victim of real estate fraud, call your provincial or territorial land registry office.