It is no secret that public Wi-Fi connections can leave you vulnerable to hacking and identity theft. However, the old wisdom of avoiding common sources of free public Wi-Fi connections is not enough. These threats are not limited to places like coffee shops, hotels, airports or even your doctor’s office. These days, more and more businesses are drawing customers with this kind of perk, and hackers have taken notice.

Passwords are also important. Some businesses reserve their free public Wi-Fi for their own customers, and as such, a password is required in order to connect. Other companies, though, do not bother with the hassle of maintaining, distributing and changing their passwords. Their guest connections are left wide open. That means your device could attempt to connect even without you taking steps to do so.

Here are a few more places where available public Wi-Fi connections might not be safe:

Retail shops

More and more businesses, especially those that encourage their customers to browse, offer free public Wi-Fi in-store. This is great for families with children, spouses or friends who need to wait on someone and even customers who want to download in-store specials and coupons. Remember, though, that connecting once intentionally can trigger that same connection any time you are near that store in the future, depending on the settings in your device.


Checking Facebook or catching up on emails while waiting in the school pickup line is a great way to multi-task, but it can also leave you at risk if you are able to connect over the school’s public Wi-Fi. Schools have long been a hot target for hackers due to the high volume of stored data, especially on younger students who have a clean credit report.

Jury lounge

Some courts have launched free public Wi-Fi in the jury duty lounge as a way to thank citizens for their service while also helping members of the jury pool be productive while they wait for their turn to serve. The connection in the jury lounge is password-protected but will be in use by a wide variety of people (including hackers).

Entertainment venues

Swimming pools, bowling alleys and arcades are providing free public Wi-Fi connections for their guests, especially parents who must wait with their kids. It is a way to make the day more enjoyable for everyone, but it can also mean hackers targeting families who are using portable devices to connect, take pictures and send updates to social media.

Common areas

Just because there are more places where your public Wi-Fi connection could lead to a hacker, that does not mean criminals have given up on their old haunts. Do not let your guard down in more common places like coffee shops and airports, and make sure your device settings prevent you from connecting automatically.

Consider using a VPN

A virtual private network is a digital tool that keeps outsiders, such as hackers, identity thieves, spammers and even advertisers from seeing your online activity. VPN is an installed piece of software on your laptop or desktop that is either stand-alone or bundled with your antivirus or security software.

If you are a victim of identity theft in need of assistance, you can receive free remediation services from ITRC. Call one of our expert advisors toll-free at 888.400.5530 or LiveChat with us. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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