It ought to be a time of the pleasantest relaxation, that moment when you slump down comfortably into a cosy chair in your favourite coffee bar, get out your cell phone and connect to the free Wi-Fi. But Citizens Advice has warned that just this simple leisurely action can be targeted by criminals, who are setting up their own Wi-Fi hot spots to try to get you to connect to them.
Typically, the fraudsters broadcast a Wi-Fi connection with a vague name like “free_wifi” or “coffee_shop_wifi”. If you connect your phone to this, any data you are sending can be captured.
Even if you log into emails using an “app”, without typing in the password, the phone will still send your password over the Wi-Fi and it could be intercepted. If you use automated passwords and do not enter your user name and password manually, these details can still be intercepted.
To avoid being becoming a victim of this scam, do one of the following:
* Make sure you are connecting to a trusted Wi-Fi hot spot, operated by the venue you are in – ask staff if you are in doubt.
* Do not use public Wi-Fi for online banking or anything else sensitive, but use your 3G, 4G or 5G connection instead (date sent over these connections is always encrypted).
* Use a VPN (virtual private network) when connecting to public Wi-Fi.
The updated Little Book of Big Scams at https://www.met.police.uk/globalassets/downloads/fraud/the-little-book-of-big-scams.pdfhas more details about this and other prevalent frauds.
And if you suspect that you’ve been scammed, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or on the Internet at www.actionfraud.police.uk. Alternatively, get in touch with Citizens Advice on Adviceline 03 444 111444, or drop in to your nearest Citizens Advice. For locations and opening hours see www.citizensadvice.org.uk/local/oxfordshire-south-vale