Susan Bach is the Northeast Regional Director for the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau? Thursday, January 10, 2013, in Appleton, Wisconsin. Dan Powers/The Post-Crescent
Summer vacations can be expensive and travel and entertainment costs can add up fast. So when you see somethingthat's free, it may be appealing.
But think twice about the offer for free Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, there have been numerous reports of scammers trying to collect personal information by creating unsecured Wi-Fi zones near hotels that guests can connect to for free.
Checking personal and work emails, as well as updating social media posts while on vacation are common. Scammers know that because some hotels charge for Wi-Fi, a free connection looks appealing. However, by connecting to an unknown and unsecure Wi-Fi connection, you are letting the owner of the connection see all your Internet activity. This could include your personal information, banking information and other Internet browsing activity.
When searching for a Wi-Fi connection, keep these tips in mind:
? Choose a secure Wi-Fi connection. If given the choice, always use a Wi-Fi connection that requires a password and uses some form of encryption. According to PC Magazine, your preference in choosing networks should be: networks secured with WPA2 encryption; then WPA; and finally WEP. Not sure about the form of encryption? Try right-clicking on the name of the network.
? Avoid Wi-Fi connections near conferences or large events. If there is a big event going on near your location, be wary of Wi-Fi connections, since criminals look at these events as opportunities to gather personal information.
? Make sure your computer is not set up to automatically connect to networks. If you are set up to connect to networks, you could be connecting to an unknown, unsecured network without knowing it.
? Make sure your firewall is enabled. A firewall helps protect your computer from unauthorized users gaining access by way of the Internet or a connection. This can help decrease the likelihood of criminals accessing your personal information or installing viruses on your device.
? Do important online work, such as banking, at home if possible. If connecting to public Wi-Fi is unavoidable, don't use it for tasks such as banking, paying bills or using your credit card. Financial activity is one of the key activities hackers are looking for. Save that for home or on your mobile device.
? Don't opt for automatically saving passwords. Many websites and browsers ask you to save and store passwords. Just say no, especially if you're using public Wi-Fi. Why make it easier for the hacker?
? Remove sensitive data from your laptop first. If a copy of last year's tax return or a bank statement is on your laptop, remove it before going on vacation. Otherwise, you're exposing personal information, like social security numbers or bank account numbers, to scammers through a public Wi-Fi connection.
Follow these tips, and you'll be able to relax and enjoy your vacation - and not worry about your identity being stolen.
- Susan Bach is regional director of the Better Business Bureau for northeastern Wisconsin. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 920-734-4352.