Free Wi-Fi – An Open Door to I.D. Theft, Warns Better Business Bureau

CHICAGO, IL – On a summer vacation, you should be able to sit back and relax, not worry about your identity being stolen. Unfortunately, there have been more and more 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 email, as well as updating social media posts while on vacation are common,” said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Scammers know that because many 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,” Bernas stated. “This could include your personal information, banking information and other Internet browsing activity.”

The BBB chief explained that when something claims to be free, it should always be a red flag to be cautious. “If you must connect to the Internet, paying the hotel fee may be worth it rather than having your personal information wind up in the hands of criminals,” he noted.

The BBB offers the following advice for vacationers looking to connect to Wi-Fi zones:

  • Use extreme caution when connecting to Wi-Fi on vacation. Connecting to free Wi-Fi zones can endanger you because of the transparency between your device and the owner of the connection. If you must connect to the internet, use the hotel’s Wi-Fi, as it is less likely to be hacked.
  • 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 of individuals.
  • 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 installing viruses on your device.
  • Do important online work, such as banking, at home if possible. If you will end up needing to connect to Wi-Fi, avoid using it for tasks such as banking. Financial activity is one of the key activities hackers are looking for. Save that for home or on your mobile device.

For more advice on protecting your identity, visit